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An influx of returnees raises humanitarian needs in Chad

By Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro

A wave of people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic – some of whom have never set foot in their own country – is straining the ability of the Government and aid agencies to provide assistance.

SIDO, Chad, 24 January 2014 – Travelling for hours from Bangui, the group finally arrived at Sido, in southern Chad, at a site set up by the Government to accommodate Chadian returnees. As they left the Central African Republic, they witnessed horrific violence. Some of them lost members of their families; others left all their possessions behind.

© UNICEF/2014/Chad/Andriamasinoro
“They set fire to our house with all our belongings. They killed our father. Our house was totally burned; we couldn’t take anything. We fled Bangui for Chad,” says 16-year-old Djimrangar Idriss (right), now in the Sido transit centre.

Trauma, fatigue and fear are still visible in their faces. Djimrangar Idriss, 16, was one of the returnees in the convoy chartered by the Chadian Government. “This was terrible. They set fire to our house with all our belongings. They killed our father. Our house was totally burned; we couldn’t take anything,” he says. “We fled Bangui for Chad. We have never seen Chad, but have to go here for our own protection.”

They stand in a queue to complete the registration process at the site. “I do not know yet how we will manage this situation. We left with only the clothes we were wearing. We are hungry, we are thirsty,” Djimrangar says.

“We don’t know anyone”

"My parents were born in the Central African Republic, I was born in the Central African Republic and my brothers and sisters were born in the Central African Republic. We do not know anyone here in Chad,” he continues. “My mom just said that our region of origin is Am-Timan, in central Chad, but unfortunately she does not know anyone there, and we do not even know how to get there."

© UNICEF/2014/Chad/Andriamasinoro
Returnees are taken to transit centres in the capital, N’Djamena, and towns near the border with the Central African Republic. UNICEF support in the Doyaba site (above) includes the deployment of medical staff, supplies and shelter.

The Chadian Government has established an air bridge and humanitarian corridor between the two countries to facilitate the repatriation of Chadian citizens based in the Central African Republic. As of 20 January, more than 41,700 persons had been repatriated – more than eight out of ten of them women and children.

Ahmat Mahamat Karambal is the Governor of Moyen Chari region, in southern Chad, where the site is located. “This number is moving upward. Many more are expected to join the country in the next few days and weeks,” he says. “The situation in the Central African Republic remains unpredictable. We do not yet know how long this repatriation process will last,” says

Continued arrivals are still reported along the border, and they are straining humanitarian capacity in Chad. New arrivals are taken to transit centres, where they are provided with medical care, food, water and sanitation services and, for those suffering from trauma, psychosocial support.

"While these sites are supposed to be temporary, we need to provide to these people a minimum package of services to meet their immediate needs, and of course, to restore their dignity,” says Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Chad. “Children and women come here without having eaten for days; others are traumatized, tired and sick. It is our responsibility to contribute in setting up basic social services in these transit sites.”

© UNICEF/2014/Chad/Andriamasinoro
Bruno Maes (right), UNICEF Representative in Chad, with returnees at the Doba transit centre. “While these sites are supposed to be temporary, we need … to meet their immediate needs.”

Together with the Chadian Government, UNICEF and its partners are providing support to the transit centres through deployment of medical staff, supplies and shelters. UNICEF has conducted mass immunization campaigns targeting more than 15,000 children in southern Chad, supplied the sites with basic family water and hygiene kits, and built dozens of boreholes and 200 emergency latrines.

Huge challenge

More than 250 children have been registered as separated from their families, according to the Government. UNICEF is working with the authorities and other agencies to ensure immediate care and protection of these children, using systems of family tracing and reunification both within Chad and in collaboration with UNICEF office in the Central African Republic. The profile of the latest arrivals contrasts significantly with the earliest arrivals – there are greater levels of separation, more acute basic humanitarian needs and many more testimonies from children of the violence and brutality they have witnessed or directly experienced.

“Considering the increased numbers of returnees over the last few weeks, it is a huge challenge to the humanitarian community to meet their needs,” says Mr. Maes. “We are appealing to the solidarity to help Chadian Government and UNICEF to meet the urgent needs of these returnees and to improve their living conditions in those sites.”



UNICEF Photography: Released from armed groups


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