Chad could become a humanitarian disaster like Darfur unless the international community takes steps to stop the conflict there, Oxfam said Thursday.

The international aid agencysaid militia attacks and ethnic conflict in eastern Chad have displaced tens of thousands of people andare interfering with efforts to help refugees who have fled violence in the Darfur region in neighbouring western Sudan.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million people have fled their homes in Darfur the past four years.

The warning from Oxfam came on the same day that the UN Security Council is scheduled to meet to discusssending peacekeepersinto eastern Chad to protect civilians.

Oxfam urged UN member states to provide funding and troops if the Security Council approves such a mission.

"The situation is spiralling out of control," Roland Van Hauwermeiren, in charge of Oxfam operations in Chad, said Thursday in a statement.

"We are facing an extraordinary situation as more than 230,000 refugees who fled attacks in Darfur in 2003 and 2004 are joined by thousands of Chadians fleeing a new wave of fighting at home," he said.

The conflict in Chad, according to BBC News, is complex, involving government troops,rebels from both Chad and Sudan,and Sudan-backed janjaweed militias.

Some attacks being carried out against civilians in Chad are similar to those of the janjaweed in Darfur.

Oxfam said it is concerned about the lack of clean drinking water and sanitation for civilians. Violence is preventing attempts to set up functioning camps and to give refugees access to clean drinking water, it said, adding it fears a spread of diarrhea, cholera and hepatitis.

"In some of the areas where we work, you've got 12,000 or 15,000 people and not a single latrine," Van Hauwermeirensaid in aReuters report.

According to the UN, there are 230,000 Sudanese refugees and 110,000 displaced Chadians in eastern Chad as well as 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic to the south.

At a summit of African leaders hosted by France in Cannes on Thursday, violence in Darfur and tension between Chad and Sudan overshadowed the discussion.

The leaders of Sudan, Central African Republic and Chad were expected to meet separately to talk about Darfur, said the office of French President Jacques Chirac.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has resisted UN efforts to send UN peacekeepers to Darfur, where his government has been accused of orchestrating counterinsurgency against the region's ethnic African tribes.

With files from the Associated Press