Saturday, February 17, 2007
Oxfam: Action needed for ChadN'DJAMENA, Chad (Reuters) -- Aid agency Oxfam urged the international community to tackle rising violence in eastern Chad before it becomes "another Darfur", ahead of a Security Council meeting on Thursday to decide on a peacekeeping force.
Ethnic conflict and a simmering rebellion in Chad's east have displaced tens of thousands of people and hampered efforts to aid a flood of refugees from Sudan's western Darfur region, where a four-year conflict has killed more than 200,000 people.
The Security Council was due to meet on Thursday to discuss a proposal to deploy a mission to protect civilians and respond to humanitarian challenges in eastern Chad.
Oxfam called on U.N. member states to make financial and logistical preparations to deploy peacekeepers this month, should the Security Council give its approval on Thursday.
"The situation is spiraling out of control," Roland Van Hauwermeiren, head of Oxfam in Chad, said in a statement.
"We are facing an extraordinary situation as more than 230,000 refugees who fled attacks in Darfur in 2003 and 2004 are joined by thousands of Chadians fleeing a new wave of fighting at home," he added.
With violence blocking efforts to establish decent camps and provide clean drinking water, Oxfam said diarrhea, cholera and hepatitis could spread among thousands of displaced people.
"In some of the areas where we work, you've got 12,000 or 15,000 people and not a single latrine," said Van Hauwermeiren. In the northeastern province of Dar Tama, traditional rivalries are turning into a major conflict, as groups become better armed and more numerous.
In the southeastern region of Dar Sila, cross-border raids are being carried out by Darfur's Janjaweed ethnic militia.
A variety of rebel groups are engaged with a cat-and-mouse war with President Idriss Deby's forces all across eastern Chad.
A senior U.N. official in the region said this week the United Nations was already preparing an advance mission to the Chad-Sudan border area to lay the groundwork for a possible international force.
An initial U.N. assessment mission sent to Chad in November concluded it was too dangerous to send in peacekeepers until all sides agreed to a political truce.
However, diplomats said the Security Council ordered a reassessment after its members complained at a closed-door session that too little was being done to protect suffering civilians.