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The New Yorker profiles humanitarian workers in eastern Chad

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The New Yorker profiles humanitarian workers in eastern Chad

Posted by Maggie Fick on January 4, 2009

A recent New Yorker article, “Lives of the Saints,” by Jonathan Harr, details the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency (also known as UNHCR) in eastern Chad. While the article focuses primarily on the  personal trials and tribulations of the expatriate UN staff working in some of the twelve refugee camps that UNHCR. operates in eastern Chad, the author does not shy from critiquing the institutional flaws of UNHCR (certainly another story in itself).

The article also provides some context on the general lawlessness and armed banditry that plagues eastern Chad, which confirms the sad reality that the over 250,000 Sudanese refugees that UNHCR currently provides assistance to in eastern Chad (who fled the government-sponsored genocide in their native Darfur region) are not the only people suffering in that remote region; around 185,000 Chadians have been displaced within their country in the past three years as the Chad-Sudan proxy war resulted in increased banditry and rebel violence, a security vacuum along the Chad-Sudan border, and a flood of arms into the troubled region.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has excellent up-to-date resources on the status of IDPs around the world; see a map from May 2008 of internal displacement in eastern Chad here. And for more on the (for the moment dormant) Chad-Sudan proxy war, see Enough’s “Nasty Neighbors” strategy paper.