In February 2004, the International Rescue Committee deployed an emergency response team to northeastern Chad to start up emergency programs for Sudanese refugees fleeing the conflict in Darfur. IRC's activities concentrated on the northernmost refugee population centers in Chad near the towns of Bahai and Cariari in the Prefecture of BET (Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti).
The IRC is currently operating in the Oure Cassoni Camp, providing primary health, environmental health, child protection and protection services to the camp's 27,000 refugees. The IRC is also working with the impoverished local host population of Bahai, providing secondary health care and environmental health services. The IRC has offices in Bahai and Abeche, and a sub-office in the capital N'djamena.
There are approximately 200,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad, spread out along 600 kilometers of the Chad-Sudan border. These refugees, who fled the violence in Darfur, have been living in Chad since early 2004.
While some families managed to collect their belongings and livestock and to regroup before fleeing to Chad, many others lost their possessions and found themselves separated from family members during raids. After walking to Chad, the refugees settled wherever they could find some degree of security, sufficient pasturage for their animals, and water for themselves and their animals.
The IRC expects the pace of Sudanese refugee arrivals into Chad to remain steady or possibly even increase as continued violence, the slow progress of the Sudanese peace process, and the possibility of a severe famine drive people to Chad for assistance. Consequently, the option of repatriation remains remote, and the IRC anticipates the need to provide ongoing service to the existing refugee population as well as to new arrivals well into 2006.
The Role of the IRC
Located in the isolated and harsh desert landscape of northeastern Chad, Oure Cassoni camp houses approximately 27,000 Sudanese refugees. The IRC has been responsible for the management of the camp since its creation in July 2004, and has focused its programming to address the basic survival needs of the camp's refugees. Over the last year the IRC has provided support in the sectors of primary health care, environmental health, protection interventions, and child protection and education for children and youth.
As the situation in Oure Cassoni moves from an acute to a protracted emergency, IRC is responding to needs by expanding and improving its programmatic coverage. Existing programs are evolving beyond immediate response services, including the expansion of gender-based violence programming to IRC's activities.
The IRC provides comprehensive health care services in Oure Cassoni camp through its health center and health post, and also provides ongoing support for the health center of Bahai village. A reproductive health clinic, providing ante and post natal services, clinical management of survivors of sexual violence, and basic emergency obstetric care and/or referrals, was opened in October 2004.
The IRC provides water to Oure Cassoni camp through a water treatment plant established in August 2004. The plant produces approximately 95,000 gallons of potable water per day. The IRC also manages sanitation issues in the camp, including waste control, vector control, garbage and animal carcass removal and hygiene promotion and education.
The IRC also provides water and sanitation services to the residents of Bahai, and has recently begun hygiene promotion activities.
Through its protection program, the the IRC works to increase community representation of vulnerable groups such as women, the elderly and the disabled and assists in the removal of barriers to their access to camp services. The IRC also has arranged for a community patrol for the camp, community information centers and community spaces.
The IRC has set up three primary schools in Oure Cassoni. The three schools employ 77 teachers and have approximately 6,800 students in attendance. Two pre-schools have been developed for young children, with construction of additional pre-schools underway
In addition to schools, the IRC has created "child-friendly spaces" with organized sports, adult and young adult education classes, cultural activities, and social activities. Older youth in the camp have started informal classes in English, Arabic, and Islamic studies for younger children, using local resources and supported by the IRC.
U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) and private foundations.