The United Nations World Food Programme warned today that humanitarian operations in eastern Chad are becoming increasingly difficult, with periodic fighting forcing the agency to temporarily suspend all non-emergency activities in parts of the troubled region.
WFP lost 483 metric tons of food when one of its warehouses in Abeche was looted following a rebel attack a little over a week ago. Two trucks carrying about 70 tons of maize, oil and sugar were attacked and looted in Biltine on November 23.
WFP took the difficult decision to suspend projects which help children and communities such as school feeding and food-for-work programmes due to the dangers of working in the prevailing volatile and unpredictable climate. The suspension of these activities will affect at least 56,000 Chadians who would normally benefit from these distributions.
In the meantime, WFP is continuing to provide emergency food supplies to over 220,000 refugees from Sudan’s neighbouring Darfur region together with some 57,000 Chadians who have been forced from their homes by violent conflict in the border region.
“Our work is getting more and more difficult,” said WFP Chad Country Director, Felix Bamezon. “There are hundreds of thousands of people – refugees from Sudan and Chadians – who depend on us for their daily needs. WFP and our partners have a huge job to do. For that we need a measure of calm to return – at present the situation is too volatile for our staff to work normally.”
In another move prompted by the current violence, WFP – together with other UN agencies and several NGOs – is regrouping all heads of field offices in the east at Abeche, while 26 non-essential staff are returning to the capital, Ndjamena.
Security in the region has deteriorated following rebel attacks on the towns of Abeche and Guereda in the past 10 days and remains very unpredictable for humanitarian workers.
The latest staff relocations from WFP field offices in Bahai, Iriba, Guereda, Farchana and Goz Beida mean that operations will now have to be managed remotely from Abeche, with only skeleton teams remaining in proximity to the camps. The capacity of WFP’s NGO partners, who organise the food distributions, has also been seriously depleted by staff relocations in recent days.
WFP is working to ensure that it is still able to carry out its emergency distributions. All food for December distributions is already in the 12 refugee camps across the east, and distributions have already started in Djabal camp near Goz Beida.
For distributions to continue with full rations, food supplies must be maintained in the east. Trucks are still moving into the region from Libya in the north and Cameroon in the south, but drivers are increasingly nervous and there are very real concerns that further fighting could sever one or both of these vital supply lines. Deliveries to the region need to continue uninterrupted into the early months of 2007.
The latest clashes in eastern Chad has also meant that food distributions to several thousand internally displaced Chadians around the towns of Ade and Dogdore have also been put on hold. All currently suspended operations will be resumed as soon as it is possible to do so.
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