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International Caritas call to help Sudanese Refugees

Caritas in the central African country of Chad is calling upon the international community to respond to the refugee crisis in Chad and Sudan before it becomes a humanitarian tragedy.

Pierre Sou Ngadoy Ngaba of Caritas Chad said the world must be made aware of the plight of the refugees pouring into Chad from Sudan.

Caritas Chad is running three of the five camps for Sudanese refugees in Chad. Most of the 19,000 people being treated at the camps are women, children, and the elderly from the ravaged Sudanese city of Dafur. At present, the camps are only able to care for about ten percent of the total number of refugees currently in Chad.

A flood of about 150,000 Sudanese refugees has poured into Chad over the last year to escape the violence raging in their country from the on-going civil war. The majority of the casualties of the war have been civilian, with thousands of people killed in deliberate or indiscriminate attacks last year alone.

The local Caritas has done what it can to alleviate the suffering of the refugees, but the situation is so serious that Archbishop Ngarteri, on behalf of the Bishops' Conference of Chad, called upon the outside world to intervene to prevent a humanitarian disaster from occurring. Likewise, the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, after a recent visit to Chad, launched an appeal to the international community.

The Archbishop is promoting advocacy initiatives to raise awareness of this human tragedy, to not only appeal for international aid, but to ask the leading nations of the north to bring pressure to bear on those taking part in the conflict to lay down their arms and seek a political solution.

The refugees' journey from their villages in Sudan to the camps is an arduous one. Once they cross over the Sudan-Chad border, refugees must trek 50 kilometres over arid, semi-desert to various sites where refugees congregate. To survive the harsh elements, they construct makeshift shelters from straw until they are taken by truck to camps, with their animals walking alongside. The refugees are finally settled in one of three camps set up by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and run by Caritas Chad.

In addition to the thousands of refugees in Chad, Mr Sou Ngadoy Ngaba said even more displaced people are in need within Sudan, because the Sudanese government is not currently allowing humanitarian organisations access to them.

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations - including Caritas Australia - present in over 200 countries and territories.

Caritas Calls for Aid for Sudanese Refugees (Caritas Internationalis 2/4/04)

Caritas Internationalis
Caritas Australia
Sudan begs for peace (Aid to the Church in Need 22/3/04)

6 Apr 2004