|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow greets children and mothers in the town of Bere, southern Chad.|
By David McKenzie
DJORLA, Chad, 22 February 2007 – The militia attacked the village of Djorla in eastern Chad before dawn. They torched the huts and ransacked the food stores. Unlike many villagers under similar attack in this area, the people of Djorla fought back, and paid a heavy price.
Some 38 residents are to be buried in three separate mass graves.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow is visiting the area to witness the horror firsthand. Everywhere she goes the signs of the December attack remain vivid. Roofless huts and smashed pottery lay on the ground, while the storage vessels were left in ruins and the sorghum inside burnt.
|© UNICEF video|
|Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow surveys a burnt village in the eastern part of Chad.|
Ms. Farrow is travelling through eastern Chad to highlight the growing humanitarian disaster of displacement, poverty and conflict. Since 2003, refugees have streamed into the region escaping attacks by armed militia in Darfur, Sudan. At last count, there are 235,000 refugees here scattered along Chad’s eastern border with Sudan.
Rising ethnic tension and internal conflict have displaced an additional 100,000 Chadians, who have also sought refuge in crowded camps.
“I don’t think you can know what is happening here and not feel a personal responsibility to do something,” said Ms. Farrow. “I can only see this getting a lot worse.”
Humanitarian aid hindered by conflict
To help the displaced families cope, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations have assisted them with basic necessities like food, shelter and education. However, the delivery of humanitarian aid is severely impeded by the insecurity in the region.
Despite the mounting challenges, UNICEF is doing its utmost to reach women and children in desperate need.
|© UNICEF video|
|With international support, children affected by conflict in eastern Chad now can go to makeshift schools to continue their education.|
With three offices in the region, UNICEF provides the refugees and internally displaced with essential water, sanitation, education and health care. UNICEF has promoted child-friendly areas so that children can play and go to school, bringing a sense of normalcy back to their lives.
After visiting children and women affected by conflict, including a young girl seriously injured when a grenade detonated in her school, Ms. Farrow felt a renewed obligation to call international attention to this troubled region.
“To support our humanitarian workers who are here at the risk of their own lives and overall, we have to really push a lot harder for that international peacekeeping force,” she said. “I can only see this getting a lot worse and hundreds of thousands of people are going to die. Not only out of the attacks but out of hunger, disease and thirst.”