Tension in West Darfur causes exodus


The number of people fleeing to Chad to escape ongoing tensions in Sudan’s West Darfur could reach 30 000 in the coming weeks, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

To date, 11000 people crossed the border since inter-communal clashes erupted in the state capital, El Geneina, in December with about 4 000 fleeing last week alone.

The violence has uprooted a further 46 000 people in Sudan, most of who were already displaced.

“With El Geneina only 20 km from the border, thousands of refugees cross into Chad, a number UNHCR anticipates could reach 30 000 in the coming weeks as tensions persist. UNHCR teams are hearing accounts of people fleeing after villages, houses and properties were attacked, many burnt to the ground”, agency spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva.

The new arrivals are scattered across several border villages in Chad, around Adré, already host to 128 000 Sudanese refugees.

Baloch said conditions were dire: “Many live in the open or under makeshift shelters, with little protection from the elements. Food and water are urgently needed and health conditions are a concern”.

UNHCR and its partners register refugees and provide food, water and other lifesaving aid. Humanitarian workers assist refugees requiring special care, such as unaccompanied children.

Baloch said the rate of arrivals “risks outpacing our capacity” and more resources and support are needed. UNHCR is working with the Chadian government to identify a new relocation site further from the border.

In West Darfur, humanitarians continue to assist displaced people at over thirty locations.

UNHCR trucks rush in relief items from warehouses in other states in the Darfur region, with more aid expected.