Sudan + 1 more

Hundreds of Sudanese flee to town in Central African Republic, UN says

Some 1,500 Sudanese refugees have sought refuge in a single town in the Central African Republic (CAR), claiming that Sudanese Government forces and armed militias attacked their town two weeks ago, a United Nations spokesperson said today.

Several UN agencies have just completed an assessment mission to the town of Sam Ouandja, in northeastern CAR, the spokesperson, Michele Montas, said today in New York.

"The agencies say the number of refugees continues to grow," Ms. Montas said. "The majority of them are women and children, who have travelled the 200 kilometres between the two towns on foot."

The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing a one-month initial food ration for the refugees who have already arrived in the town, and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) along with he UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is providing non-food items, Ms. Montas added.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a news release saying the influx of refugees is ongoing.

"We did not find evidence of the presence of armed elements in the group and the refugees assured the mission that everyone originates from DaFak in Sudan and no Chadian nationals among them," said Bruno Geddo, Representative of UNHCR.

"We will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the civilian and humanitarian character of the operation," he added.

"Considering that the majority of the refugees appear to be women and children, WFP will provide emergency food assistance, while at the same time carry out an assessment of the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable individuals among the local population in Sam Ouandja," said that agency's Representative in CAR, Jean-Charles Dei.

"Beyond the need for humanitarian assistance, the United Nations remains highly concerned about the protection of civilians and calls for the national authorities to continue to facilitate humanitarian access to displaced populations in need," said Jean-Sébastien Munié, OCHA chief in the country.

UN officials have frequently warned that the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region is threatening to engulf the CAR as well as Chad - a caution Mr. Munié repeated today.

"The arrival of these refugees from Sudan is another evidence of the spill-over effect and the regional dimension of the conflict in Darfur," he concluded.