3000 homeless after fire breaks out in Chad refugee camp

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

A fire broke out in a refugee camp in eastern Chad Friday, leaving 3,000 people homeless and injuring 10, according to the United Nations (UN) refugee agency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugees have been living in the camp as a result of the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

A Darfur refugee camp in Chad in 2005.
Image: Mark Knobil.

The fire started in the Goz Amer camp triggered by a cooking fire that had gone unwatched. The fire moved quickly through the camp due to high winds. Many of the refugees lost all of their belongings and food rations in the blaze. After receiving tents from the UNHCR in 2004, many of the refugees built traditional dwellings out of sticks and mud, and these shelters burned rapidly in the fire.

In a UNHCR press release, Emmanuel Uwurukundo, acting UNHCR head in Koukou-Angarana said: "Everybody around, refugees and all our partners alike, rushed to the spot and tried to extinguish the fire with whatever they had: clothes, extinguishers and water. The teamwork was outstanding."

Cquote1.svg The refugees have already suffered so much tragedy and now face yet another trauma. Cquote2.svg

António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

In Geneva the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres commented on the situation: "The refugees have already suffered so much tragedy and now face yet another trauma. I am deeply relieved that there was no loss of life in this devastating fire. We will do everything we can to help and to get shelter and food supplies to them as quickly as possible."

Families affected by the fire were housed at three area schools, and the UNHCR announced on Friday that it planned to deliver aid supplies including sleeping mats, blankets and kitchen sets. The World Food Programme was also asked by the UNHCR for an extra monthly food ration to be delivered to the families whose homes were destroyed in the blaze.

The Goz Amer camp houses about 20,500 refugees, and is located approximately 70 kilometers from the Sudanese border. Goz Amer is one of 12 UNHCR-run camps along the Chad-Sudan which all told contain over 240,000 refugees from Darfur.

Chad and Sudan signed a peace agreement on March 13 in an attempt to end a five-year conflict, and the leaders of both countries agreed not to back rebel groups that are active near their borders.

Approximately 2.2 million people from the Darfur region have left their homes since the beginning of the violence in 2003. The UN puts the number of deaths due to the Darfur conflict at over 200,000, and the Sudanese government has said that only 9,000 have died.


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