Yesterday afternoon's incident is a regular crime which is undermining the humanitarian work in the region. In the last two years around 70 vehicles belonging to humanitarian organisations have been lost to gunmen operating in the northern border region of Chad
In this case, three health engineers and two local drivers were traveling in two cars, in convoy with a third from another international humanitarian organisation, when they were held up at gunpoint on the road from Abeche to Guereda in Eastern Chad. All three international staff - a Frenchman and Ugandan based in the UK and an Indian national - were injured by the gunmen before they were abandoned in the bush. With the help of the local authorities they later located two of the cars and used them to travel back to Abeche. One Oxfam car remained missing but has now been found by the authorities.
Penny Lawrence, Oxfam's International Director said,
"Safety of our staff is paramount. Oxfam has strict security guidelines and continually adapts its working practices to try to avoid an occurrence like this. Thankfully no-one was badly injured but it is very traumatic for those involved."
Chad is currently host to 230,000 refugees from neighbouring Darfur, and 170,000 internally displaced people, putting increasing pressure on its own local scarce resources. Levels of banditry and lawlessness continue to escalate in this remote and isolated region making the delivery of much needed humanitarian aid difficult at best.
Penny Lawrence said,
"The threat of attack is emotionally and financially a heavy burden for those who work in the region and increases the difficulties of working in what is already a very challenging environment. Action by the international community is urgently needed to ensure the protection of civilians living and working in northern Chad whether they are from Darfur, Chad or from the wider international community working on humanitarian aid."
For more information:
Jennifer Abrahamson in New York: + 1 212 687 2150, +1 202 321 7858; Nicholas Ireland in Dakar: +221 639 55 06; or Michel Anglade in Dakar: +221 638 58 34