Floods hit refugees and displaced in east

Heavy rains in eastern Chad have caused rivers to overflow, washing out several camps for Chadians displaced by inter-ethnic fighting and refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region.

“It’s already an enormously difficult situation and the heavy rain this year as well as the degradation of the roads have hindered our work,” said Nicolas Kaburabouyou, head of protection for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) at the Goz Beida refugee camp in southeastern Chad.

The worst hit area is Koukou, which is the site of a refugee camp housing some 11,000 people, around 6km east of the town of Goz Beida. According to UNHCR, the mud and straw shelters that refugees built themselves have been collapsing, sometimes with people inside. Refugees have been moving to higher ground to escape the flood waters.

No cases of cholera have been reported, according to Kaburabouyou, but cases of malaria, a mosquito-borne illness which often contributes to the death of children weakened by malnutrition, have increased sharply.

The waters are too deep for aid workers to reach the refugees, but some supplies have been transported using camels and horse and carts, Kaburabouyou added.

Aid workers in Chad have come to expect these kinds of problems, according to Ann Maymann, UNHCR spokesperson in N’djamena. “During the rainy season there is always a lot of difficulty with logistics. The runways get flooded and many humanitarian flights are cancelled. It takes an enormous amount of time to get from one place to another.”

A lull in fighting is one upside of the annual floods, as the militia fighters who circulate in the region in trucks and jeeps as well as on camels and horses are also impeded by the rains.

Every year before the rainy season, aid agencies position enough food and essential supplies to make sure that refugees in the remote camps can fend for themselves if they become completely cut off by floods.