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Thousands of Chadian refugees in Cameroon still face an uncertain future

© UNICEF Cameroon/2008/Garnier
Child refugees from Chad at the Madana transit site in Kousséri, Cameroon. UNICEF has been supplying safe water to the refugees and plans to begin a massive immunization campaign.

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, USA, 11 February 2008 – While many Chadian refugees have begun returning home, between 20,000 and 30,000 displaced people remain in northern Cameroon, their fates uncertain.

They are gathered in the city of Kousséri, on the border of Chad. Some are living with families, but the majority are in two temporary sites.

‘Extremely unsure’

“The refugees are extremely unsure about what’s going to happen next and many are afraid of going back and of possible political problems for those who are not on the government side,” said UNICEF Representative in Cameroon Silvia Luciani.

The Government of Chad has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew following an effort by rebels to take control of the capital, N’Djamena, just over a week ago. About 100 civilians were killed in the attempted uprising and tens of thousands of people fled to Cameroon. At one point, an estimated 58,000 people were in Kousséri with little food, safe water or shelter.

© UNICEF Cameroon/2008/Garnier
Refugees at the Madana site in Kousséri. Although the violence in Chad has ended, many are worried about returning home.

Distributing water

UNICEF is distributing tens of thousands of litres of water to Chadian refugees in Cameroon every day and expects to begin an immunization campaign this week to protect 44,000 children against measles and polio.

“We’re going to immunize all of the children, not only the refugee children but also the Cameroonian children living in the area,” said Ms. Luciani.

Families reunited

Psychologists and social workers are helping children deal with the effects of the past week’s events and have been able to reunite all those who were separated from their parents. “We have deployed five psychologists, and social workers are talking to the people in the town and trying to see if there are other separated children,” Ms. Luciani noted.

The refugees who remain in Kousséri at the end of the week will be moved to a temporary camp that the United Nations is preparing at Maltam, 30 km outside of town.




11 February 2008: UNICEF Representative in Cameroon Silvia Luciani describes how UNICEF is assisting thousands of refugees in Kousséri, on the border with Chad.
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