Renewed fighting in eastern Chad sparks alarm from UN refugee agency

Although the most recent clashes have occurred away from inhabited areas and not caused any significant movements of population yet, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva that refugees and IDPs in eastern Chad fear the already unstable situation may soon worsen.The fighting has been concentrated mainly in the Farchana, Iriba, Biltine and Guereda areas, located to the north and east of the major town of Abeché, the main operational base for a dozen of refugee camps that run by UNHCR. Insecurity is also plaguing the areas near refugee camps to the south of Abeché, such as Goz Beida.Mr. Mahecic said all essential services are still running in the camps, which house an estimated 212,000 people from the war-torn Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan, but aid workers’ access has become limited because of the dangers posed by the fighting.For more than a week over 130 humanitarian workers from various organizations were blocked in the town of Hadjer Hadid, southwest of Farchana, because of heavy fighting, but they were finally relocated yesterday to Abeché.“The volatile situation has also prompted an increase in banditry,” Mr. Mahecic said. “We continue to monitor the security situation very closely.”Across eastern Chad UNHCR and its aid partners are helping more than 240,000 Darfur refugees and at least 180,000 IDPs. 4 December 2007The United Nations refugee agency today issued a warning that the surge in fighting in eastern Chad between Government forces and rebels over the past 10 days has limited its access to camps that are home to hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and heightened tensions in the area. read more