Over the past week, more than 2,000 refugees have fled their homes into neighboring Chad as a result of recent fighting between government forces and rebels in northern Central African Republic (CAR).
The humanitarian crisis is already causing serious concern within the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. Donor countries and institutions are being persuaded to be generous in raising funds needed for the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).
Before now, High Commissioner for Refugees had registered more than 5,200 refugees in Chad who fled intensified fighting between government forces and rebels in the north of their native CAR some years ago.
These refugees are sheltering in the village of Daha in south-eastern Chad, roughly one kilometre from the border with the CAR.
UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) have been distributing food to refugees since their arrival in Chad in 2009. Hundreds of children were enrolled at the local school and classes have started in two new facilities built by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)which has also trained teachers.
In addition, the agency has begun handing out high-protein biscuits to all children in the two camps in Daha, while it has begun constructing five wells for both refugees and the host population.
Due to wide-spread fighting and armed banditry in recent years in the CAR, some 200,000 Central Africans have been either internally displaced by the violence or forced to live as refugees in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.
However, according to the agency, new arrivals in Chad reported having fled clashes, as well as pillaging, extortion and other acts of violence at the hands of rebel groups. Most of the displaced were from CAR’s Kaga-Bandoro, Batangafo and Kabo regions.
UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch, said that to reach Chad, people had to wade shoulder-deep through the Grande Sido river, which flows along the Chad-CAR border, with the some carrying their few belongings on their heads.
“The refugees are now settled in Gandaza village and the bordering town of Sido, although some are having to resort to crossing back into CAR to find food or salvage what little is left from their properties”, he added.
Violence flared across CAR following last December’s contested elections, with armed elements allied with former president François Bozizé attacking several towns and villages. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced within the country as well as into neighbouring ones.
Chad currently hosts close to 11,000 of the total 117,000 Central African refugees who also fled to Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo (ROC) in the wake of the post-electoral violence.
Longstanding humanitarian crisis
The influx slowed considerably since mid-March after government forces and their allies reclaimed most of the rebel strongholds, UNHCR said.
The lull allowed some 37,000 formerly internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their areas of origin, who now need help to rebuild their lives, it added.
Roughly the size of France, CAR has been plagued by conflict and insecurity for years.
According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) about 2.8 million people in CAR – 57 per cent of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. The situation has been further complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, with rising hunger, loss of livelihoods, closure of schools, and a reported increase in violence against women and children.