Chad + 1 more

ACT International begins operations in eastern Chad

Geneva, June 28, 2007 - After dispatching an assessment mission to the region, members of the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International are beginning emergency relief operations in eastern Chad near Koukou, in the conflict-affected region bordering Darfur, Sudan.

The area is heavily impacted by large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDP) who fled cross-border violence spilling over from Darfur. People now face a dire health and sanitation situation with the oncoming rainy season.

"We suffer so much. In my village, I had a little cattle and I did some business. This allowed my family and I to live normally. Today, I have lost everything, everything," said Abdoulaye Nourredine, from the village of Tiéro, now living in the Habile camp near Koukou.

The decision to intervene with under-served IDP populations in Chad, as refugees from Darfur have relatively more (albeit limited) international resources available to them, was based on the recommendations of the assessment team and discussions with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and its other agencies, UNHCR and UNICEF, as well as Catholic Relief Services, local churches and the local populations. The intervention will begin with site and camp management in the Habile and Aradib camps near Koukou in the Dar Sila district. The camps are now home to 35,000 IDPs.

ACT assessment team member, Alistair Dutton from Christian Aid, said, "Visiting Habile, one is immediately struck by the densely packed make-shift shelters without any apparent order or roads. There is currently no site management presence in these camps and if the area floods during the rainy season there will be catastrophic consequences for people's health."

ACT member, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will be heading the joint response and is sending an emergency coordinator to the region next week to establish the operation and to make preparations for additional staff to support the larger planned intervention.

The immediate focus of the response is to relocate IDP homes to less flood-prone areas and to promote sanitation and hygiene in order to minimize the potential outbreak of disease during the height of the rainy season towards the end of July.

"The Chad-Darfur situation is deeply complex, but as best we can, we seek to walk with communities in distress understanding that there is a need to uphold their rights," said Maria Immonen from LWF.

Another ACT member, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) will also be sending a water engineer next week to begin work. The overall operation will gradually expand while remaining in discussion with all stakeholders and funding members. The future plans include environmental health, community services and psychosocial care.

Projects will also be extended to the surrounding villages to ensure that IDPs and local populations enjoy similar service provision in order to minimize any potential conflict between various populations.

The ACT appeal will be for the first six months of the response and will be revised in the coming months.

Action by Churches Together (ACT) International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide. ACT already works in South and West Darfur, Sudan, through a joint operation with Caritas International.