Humanitarian assistance to tens of thousands of people in eastern Chad is under threat from banditry, which has led several aid agencies to temporarily halt their operations in the face of attacks, the United Nations relief wing reported today.
Elizabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told reporters in Geneva that the suspension by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would affect at least 37,000 people in eastern Chad.
Humanitarian actors are in contact with national and local authorities to improve the safety of civilians and aid workers, she said. Over the past two weeks, an international staff member with the ICRC was killed and a national staffer with the NGO Solidarite was kidnapped.
Ms. Byrs stressed an urgent need to reinforce the capacities of the Government and the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) " which was set up to protect refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid " to address the new security challenges.
Since the beginning of 2009, around 190 banditry attacks affecting humanitarians had been recorded in eastern Chad, nearly double the 110 in 2008.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that armed banditry is the greatest security threat for aid workers in eastern Chad, where humanitarian agencies are working to assist some 250,000 refugees from neighbouring Sudan since 2003, as well as 160,000 displaced Chadians since 2006.