|© UNICEF/HQ07-0243/ Pirozzi|
|A displaced woman holds her year-old son, who is suffering from severe malnutrition, at a hospital in the Djabal refugee camp in Chad.|
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, 4 February 2008 – UNICEF and United Nations assessment teams have been sent to the borders of Cameroon and Nigeria, where thousands have fled to escape fighting in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.
According to UNICEF Chad Deputy Representative Dimitri Papathanassiou, rebels launched a massive assault on the city over the weekend and civilian casualties were high.
“A lot of casualties are still lying out in the street. A lot of buildings have been damaged,” he said in a telephone interview.
Threat to women and children
UNICEF Chad has evacuated all but a skeleton staff. Its offices have been commandeered by soldiers and Mr. Papathanassiou said it would take a few days to ascertain the extent of the threat to women and children.
“A lot of children are out there. We’re very concerned and don’t know what their situation is,” Mr. Papathanassiou said. “At least four to five thousand people have crossed into Cameroon and it’s expected that even more may have taken advantage of a lull in the fighting to escape.”
Chad is home to large numbers of refugees from Darfur, as well as to camps with internally displaced Chadians. UNICEF is concerned about the effect of the conflict on those who are already suffering.
“The situation is very confused,” said UNICEF Regional Communications Advisor for West and Central Africa Martin Dawes.
‘Relatively stable’ in camps for displaced
“At the moment, the east appears to be relatively stable, but without international observers, without the support coming, it would be very easy to imagine that the situation would deteriorate quickly and the populations in these camps become more vulnerable and unstable,” said Mr. Dawes.
Compounding the problem is Chad’s already poor infrastructure and child survival rates.
“We don’t want to see that situation deteriorate,” Mr. Dawes continued. “The longer the struggle goes on, the longer international aid workers can’t get to the people, the more the children are at risk. For the moment we have to monitor and adopt a wait-and-see – but we don’t want to see that situation go on for too much longer.”
4 February 2008:
UNICEF Deputy Representative in Chad Dimitri Papathanassiou describes the situation in the capital, N’Djamena, where rebels launched a massive attack over the weekend.
UNICEF Regional Communications Advisor for West and Central Africa Martin Dawes discusses the threats to children in the wake of this weekend’s rebel assault on the Chadian capital.