UN agencies to airlift emergency supplies for Sudanese refugees in Chad

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) plans to send 40 tons of emergency supplies – including high-energy biscuits and logistics equipment – tonight from its depot in Italy to N’Djamena, the Chadian capital.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is bringing six plane-loads of supplies, including plastic sheeting, tents, kitchen sets, jerry cans and mosquito nets, over the next week to the town of Abeche in Chad’s east.More than 110,000 Sudanese have crossed the border into Chad over the past year to escape fighting in the Darfur region between rebel groups, the Sudanese Government and militias.The UN estimates another 700,000 Sudanese have become internally displaced since the Darfur conflict erupted last March.The WFP’s Representative in Chad, Philippe Guyon Le Bouffy, said relief agencies are racing to provide help before the annual rainy season begins in May or June and cuts off access to many areas.”This region is very, very poor,” he said. “Initially the local population made great efforts to help the refugees but they themselves are finding it more and more difficult to cope.”A month after WFP launched an appeal for donations, it has so far received less than a quarter of the $18.5 million needed to help the Sudanese refugees in Chad.But, for the first time since November, WFP staff have been able to provide food to people in Kutum in north Darfur. Most of Darfur remains off-limits to humanitarian workers because of the fighting.Meanwhile, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond today told journalists in Geneva that the agency has set up two refugee camps in Chad, in Farchana and Touloum, and will be ready to open three more “in the near future.” That agency is trying to move as many refugees as possible away from their temporary shelters along the Chadian-Sudanese border because of frequent cross-border raids by armed militias.

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