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Executive Board delegates visit Darfur refugees in Chad and witness UNICEF in action

© UNICEF/Chad/2006/ Pittenger
Sudanese refugee girls dance during the UNICEF Executive Board members’ visit to the Oure Cassoni Camp school in Chad.

By Jane O’Brien

NEW YORK, 10 April 2006 – At a refugee camp in Chad, women and children fleeing violence across the border in Darfur, Sudan are given nutrition and medical care. Some have walked for days to get there. They describe how their men were murdered, their homes and communities destroyed.

Listening to their stories are members of UNICEF’s Executive Board. They’re visiting Chad to see firsthand how the policies they decide thousands of miles away in New York make a real difference to the lives of these children and women.

“I’ve been impressed by the UNICEF staff,” says US representative and delegation head William Brisben. “We went out to refugee camps in eastern Chad and we saw dedication, not only from the UNICEF staff but from other NGO humanitarian organizations working with these refugees.”

There are some 250,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad – a fraction of the estimated 3.4 million people affected by the ongoing conflict in Darfur. UNICEF has helped provide them with water, nutrition, health care, education and shelter.

© UNICEF/Chad/2006/ Pittenger
Sudanese school girls and a refugee school leader at Gaga Refugee Camp meet UNICEF Executive Board members Unni Ramboll of Norway and William Brisben of the U.S., as well as UNICEF Emergency Education Officer Paola Retaggi, (at right).

Child-friendly spaces

In 2004, the Executive Board set out a basic standard of care to help children in emergencies. The standard is called the ‘Core Commitment to Children’, and the delegation in Chad has witnessed its words being put into action.

“This mission has been very useful,” says UNICEF’s Norway delegate, Unni Ramboll. “It is something we will bring back and use in the Executive Board. We’ve seen the programme in the education sector, health sector and child protection.”

In another sector central to UNICEF’s work, water and sanitation, the delegates saw a pumping station funded by UNICEF and operated by its partner, the International Rescue Committee.

Board members also toured one of the 46 child-friendly spaces set up by UNICEF in Chad and watched pupils study at a temporary school.

“Education is very important in these camps,” says UNICEF’s Russia delegate, Grigory Ustinov. “We have noted that the children are following the Sudanese school programmes so they can keep their identity to be able to go back and be integrated easily in their mother country.”

Most people in the camp tell the visiting Executive Board members they want to return home. But without peace and security in the region, that dream is unlikely to become a reality for the children and families UNICEF serves.




10 April 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Jane O’Brien reports on the UNICEF Executive Board delegation to programmes for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

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