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mia farrow

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November 9, 2008

Aid workers air lifted out of Ouandja by EUFOR

Nine aid workers in a remote corner of eastern CAR asked EUROR to  airlift them out after armed militias raided a government troop encampment.  (See my posting from Ouandja-’Diamonds in the Sky’)  

Sam Ouandja, a remote village on the Darfur border  received some unexpected guests in May of 2007 when the first group refugees arrived from Darfur. Over the days that followed, hundreds more, nearly 3000 in all, arrived on foot after walking for more than ten days when their village (Daffak) in South Darfur was attacked by Sudanese militia. The population of Sam Ouandja generously welcomed the refugees and gave them land to settle on and to cultivate. This despite the fact that the local population had itself sufferered from attacks in 2006 and early 2007.
The area is difficult to reach and during the rainy season it is cut off from CAR’s capital of Bangui.  UNHRC, UNICEF and WFP responded quickly to meet the urgent needs of the refugees who were suffering from dehydration, anemia, malnutrition and diarrhea.

When I visited Sam Ouandja earlier this year, the refugees told me they live in fear of attacks from Sudan. Coincidentally, EUFOR was there then too. They were heading towards Chad as they had had news of a janjaweed massing.  It was great to see them patrolling that volatile border, providing a measure of security for the people there.  

Now, two helicopters from EUFOR’s headquarters in Abece (in neighboring Chad),  airlifted the aid workers to safety, but I have no news of what is happening to the refugees and the local populations.  

EUFOR began a year-long United Nations-mandated mission in March. I cannot adequately convey how happy the people –refugees and local populations are to have them there. I WISH they could stay at least one more year—or better still, until peace comes to the region.  

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