West Darfur tensions could see 30,000 flee across Sudanese border to Chad: UN refugee agency

©UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi Internally displaced families gather at a temporary gathering point outside a school in El Geneina town following recent intercommunal conflict in West Darfur.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


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

So far, 11,000 people have crossed the border since deadly inter-communal clashes erupted in the state capital, El Geneina, in late December, with some 4,000 fleeing in the past week alone.

The violence has also uprooted another 46,000 people within Sudan, most of whom were already displaced.

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

The arrivals are scattered in several border villages in Chad, around the town of Adré, which already is hosting some 128,000 Sudanese refugees.

Mr. Baloch described their conditions as dire: “Most are staying in the open or under makeshift shelters, with little protection from the elements. Food and water are urgently needed, while health conditions are a concern.”

UNHCR and its partners are on the ground, registering refugees and providing them with food, water and other lifesaving aid.  Humanitarian workers are also assisting those refugees who require special care, such as unaccompanied children.

However, Mr. Baloch reported that the rate of arrivals “risks outpacing our capacity”, and that more resources and support are needed.  UNHCR is working with the Chadian Government to identify a new relocation site further from the border, he added.

Back in West Darfur, humanitarians continue to assist displaced people gathered at over three dozen locations.

UNHCR trucks have been rushing in relief items from its warehouses in other states in the Darfur region, with more aid expected.

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