UN evacuates nonessential staff from strifetorn Chad

As fighting erupted in N’djamena, the capital of Chad, the United Nations has begun the evacuation of all non-essential staff as well as personnel of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the city, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN’s lead logistics agency in the troubled country.A total of 148 people were evacuated from the city, where the Government and rebels clashed today, and flown directly to Yaoundé in Cameroon, where they will remain until it is considered safe for them to return.“This is not a full-scale evacuation and does not mean the complete halt of WFP’s operations in Chad,” Stefano Porretti, the agency’s Chad Country Director said. “We still have key staff in place, although obviously the lack of capacity on the ground will have an impact on the level of our work. Given the unpredictability of the situation, this relocation of non-essential staff was the most prudent course of action.” WFP works with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other UN agencies and NGOs to feed over 200,000 refugees from the Darfur conflict in a dozen camps in eastern Chad, as well as over 40,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in the south. Earlier today, UNHCR expressed alarm over the security situation for those refugees in the midst of the current fighting and the UN Security Council condemned attacks against them. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also voiced concern about the worsening security situation in a statement issued by his spokesman.Mr. Porretti voiced hope that calm would soon be restored “so as not to endanger the lives of the thousands of people who depend on international assistance.” read more