Aid agencies are racing to position food and other relief supplies for some 18,000 men, women and children from Central African Republic who fled to southern Chad, most of whom have taken refuge next to the border. Rains due in the coming weeks will cut access to the refugees, aid workers say. Up to 100 Central Africans continue to pour into Chad each day, fleeing armed attacks on civilians and fighting between rebels and government forces in northern CAR.

Heavy ground fighting between Chadian troops and rebels has erupted in the east, a day after the government said a rebel offensive had been defeated. The government said its forces had killed at least 100 rebels and some of its own soldiers had also died in an hour of combat near Am Dam. It said the rebels were retreating and looting as they left.

Awa was killed by her husband last November in Guelendeng, 150km south of the Chad capital N’djamena. Her death was the tipping point for the town’s women, who, appalled by the rampant violence they face, have decided to fight for their rights. In December dozens of women took part in a protest march, the first of its kind in Guelendeng, to condemn the violation of their rights and to call the government to account over the impunity that prevails.

On paper rebels and the military in Chad are in agreement: a child should not be part of any armed forces. But renewed insecurity over the last few months has triggered an increase in child recruitment, humanitarian workers say. In May 2007, during a return to calm following a peace accord between the government of Chad and various rebel groups, the government signed an agreement with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to remove children working from armed forces and rebel groups and assist them.

More than 100 CAR refugees crossed the volatile border to south-eastern Chad over the weekend, joining over 6,800 others who began arriving earlier this year in two sites near the remote Daha village registered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Another 2,500 new arrivals are sheltering just across the border in the Chadian village of Massambaye, 125 kilometres east of Daha.