|© UNICEF/HQ 04-0398/Nesbitt|
|A refugee baby with his mother at a therapeutic feeding centre in Iriba, Chad.|
EASTERN CHAD, 7 July 2004 - UNICEF and partner agencies have found that over 25 per cent of refugee children in Chad are acutely malnourished. Almost 180,000 refugees – two thirds of them women and children – have fled across the border from Sudan’s Darfur region, escaping attacks by marauding bands of militiamen. Some have gathered in desperate conditions along the border, others are housed in refugee camps, and Chad’s local communities are also giving shelter to many refugees. Some roads in the area have become impassable because of the rainy season, complicating aid efforts.
Against this background, the figures for malnutrition among children up to the age of six are causing great concern. Children near the border areas – who do not even have the limited protection of a refugee camp – are the most severely affected; almost one third of them are acutely malnourished. But even children staying with Chadian families show malnutrition rates of 24%. Children weakened by severe or moderate malnutrition are much more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Many are suffering from diarrhoea, which can potentially be fatal. In many areas there is little access to water. The few existing water points are overwhelmed by the needs of the huge refugee population. Although water is being brought in by tankers, much more is needed.
|© UNICEF/HQ 04-0399/Nesbitt|
|Therapeutic milk is distributed at a feeding centre in Iriba, Chad.|
In response to the crisis, UNICEF is supporting a number of nutritional feeding centres in eastern Chad and is helping supply therapeutic milk and mosquito nets to protect families from malaria. A major vaccination campaign to immunize children against measles and polio, and to provide them with essential vitamin supplements, is about to begin. UNICEF is also working with its partners to create water-treatment plants, and is training hygiene education teams in the refugee camps. UNICEF is also supporting temporary classrooms so that children have access to education.
To support its emergency programme for vulnerable children and families who have fled from the Darfur region to Chad, UNICEF has appealed for nearly $7 million. So far, however, only about one third of that sum has been raised. More funds are urgently needed.