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UNICEF intensifies emergency response for refugees in eastern Chad

© UNICEF Chad/2013
Mothers wait to get their children vaccinated at the Tissi health centre in eastern Chad. Since March of this year 30,000 refugees and 22,000 returnees have been registered in and around the remote border town.

By Fatratra Andriamasinoro

20 June is World Refugee Day. A new report by UNHCR says global forced displacement is the highest it’s been for 18 years. At the end of 2012, more than 45.2 million people had been driven from their homes. Life as a refugee for children is particularly difficult and traumatic. They are denied the safety of a home, school and peace. They often witness violence and are subject to abuse and harrowing living conditions. UNICEF works closely with UNHCR to meet the needs of refugees and displaced persons.

With tens of thousands of refugees and returnees arriving in a remote area of eastern Chad, UNICEF has ramped up efforts to provide protection and basic medical care.

TISSI, Chad, 19 June 2013 – Damamam Salah Hamad is waiting at the Tissi health centre with her 4-month-old son, Hikbal, so that he can receive his vaccinations. In this remote border town, UNICEF has helped establish a health centre that can treat common illnesses and malnutrition. More than 30,000 children have been immunized against measles.

Ms. Hamad and her son are among the thousands who have fled recent violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, just across the border to the east.

“Seeing the danger, my children and I fled, taking only necessary belongings with us,” she says. “We have walked hundreds of miles fleeing fighting in Darfur. We did not even know where we were going.”

Since March this year, 30,000 refugees have been registered in and around Tissi, along with 22,000 Chadian returnees. The region has been characterized by chronic instability since 2004, and the Government of Chad and its partners, including UNICEF, have responded as rapidly as possible to provide assistance to the new arrivals.

Immediate needs

In addition to establishing an operational base, UNICEF has rehabilitated the health center in Tissi and set up five emergency health posts in host villages. Nurses, midwives and community health workers have been deployed for maternal and child health activities covering 18 villages. As a results of this emergency response, Ms. Hamad’s family and thousands of refugees and returnees now have access to basic health care.

In a period of just two months, more than 350 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition at the six centres set up by UNICEF, and more than 15,000 children under 5 received vitamin A supplementation and mebendazol for deworming.

Child-friendly spaces

To provide children and their families with services such as basic health care, education and access to safe water and adequate sanitation, UNICEF has built child-friendly spaces, which are set up in collaboration with the Government and NGOs.

© UNICEF Chad/2013
UNICEF has established an operational base in Tissi to provide humanitarian assistance to the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled recent fighting in Darfur.

The spaces also provide a safe environment and serve as recreational areas for children, restoring a sense of normalcy through playing and having fun.

“A few weeks ago, the faces of these children were hard; they had closed fists and adult-like, anxious faces,” says Zaida, a UNICEF community volunteer. “They have walked hundreds of miles on foot alongside their parents, in precarious conditions.”

About 3,000 children attend the child-friendly spaces each day. Community social workers have been recruited to manage activities and to provide extra care as well as monitor, prevent and report on violence against children and women.

“Children are, as always, part of the most vulnerable in an emergency,” says Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Chad. “Child-friendly spaces offer a protective environment to children traumatized by the conflict.”

More support needed

Through its partnerships with government counterparts, NGOs and the establishment of a robust supply chain, UNICEF has provided humanitarian assistance to more than 100,000 beneficiaries, including refugees, returnees and the vulnerable host community.

“Thanks to the support of ECHO, DFID, OFDA and National Committees, UNICEF and partners have responded well to the most recent refugee and returnee influxes, but remain vigilant given current political turmoil in neighboring countries as well as a high risk for epidemics,” Mr. Maes says.

“Many of the basic necessities of life – including safe water, adequate sanitation, public health, nutrition, protection and education – are lacking. UNICEF needs to raise much-needed funds to help alleviate this situation, especially for vulnerable children.”



UNICEF Photography: Refugees & displaced

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