N’DJAMENA, REPUBLIC OF CHAD (March 11, 2009) – CARE is expressing deep concern over the humanitarian situation in Darfur following the expulsion of non-governmental aid organisations from the region. A worst-case scenario could see the humanitarian situation again spill over into neighbouring countries like Chad.
CARE is one of 13 agencies that have now been expelled from Darfur. CARE’s contribution alone provides food, water, sanitation, livelihood, and health assistance to some 1.5 million people in Sudan, including approximately 600,000 people in the Darfur region who were displaced by years of conflict.
The UN currently estimates that within a period of less than two weeks 1.1 million people will need food, 1.2 million people will need water, and 1.5 million people will be without access to health services. As well, with the rainy season approaching and a lack of health services, the risk of a serious disease epidemic is growing. The 13 expelled agencies represent over half the humanitarian capacity in Darfur.
Conditions in Darfur will likely deteriorate without those organisations there to meet existing needs. In a worst-case scenario, it is possible many of those displaced persons could be forced to move across the border into Chad in search of assistance. “CARE is closely monitoring the situation.” said Anne Wood, CARE Country Director in Chad. “It is our deepest hope the Government of Sudan will reverse their decision and allow non-political NGOs like CARE to resume work in Darfur.”
Agencies such as CARE were at the forefront of the relief effort when a first wave of 250,000 refugees fleeing Janjaweed attacks and burning villages first flooded over the border into eastern Chad in 2004. Now living in 12 camps along the Sudan border, CARE workers have found that many of those refugees are closely following events, wishing there was a sustainable peace in Darfur but knowing the recent ICC decision and the evolving humanitarian crisis may dash those hopes for the foreseeable future.
Chad has been experiencing negative spill-over effects from the Darfur conflict for some time. In addition, concerns about renewed rebel group activity , the transition of the European peacekeeping force (EUFOR) to a UN-force in mid-March, increased banditry and shrinking humanitarian space, have led to a situation in Chad that could be described as “calm yet volatile.”
Nevertheless CARE and the humanitarian community in Chad are making contingency plans to deal with a possible influx of tens of thousands new refugees. If people in Darfur make the decision to move they will likely do so soon, before the rainy season makes travel through the border region far more difficult.
CARE provides food, medical supplies and other humanitarian relief in several refugee camps, sheltering one quarter of the Darfur refugees in Chad.
CARE works with the most vulnerable amongst the refugees and is particularly concerned with the welfare of women and girls in the camps. Over 66 per cent of the refugees are under the age of 17, the majority of whom are girls. Gender-based violence is a serious problem and CARE has taken steps such as providing energy-efficient stoves which reduce the number of times women and girls must leave the safety of the camps to find firewood. In addition to water and sanitation programs, CARE is also providing vocational skills training for refugee women to help them become more self-reliant, education for children, seeds for farmers and training and activities for youth.