The refugees are trying to draw water from the only well in the area to quench their thirst, as the Andréssa school site lacks drinking water, food and suitable shelter for them.
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Refugees in eastern Chad may become ‘trapped’ and ‘forgotten’ with onset of the rainy season

On Monday, June 12, 2023

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Thousands of people amassed at Chad’s eastern border in Sila region and other border areas – seeking refuge from a raging conflict in neighbouring Sudan - are at risk of losing access to vital humanitarian and medical assistance with the impending arrival of the rainy season, warns the international humanitarian medical organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF).

This is expected to have devastating humanitarian consequences in Sila’s border region; when wadis (dry riverbeds) and roads fill with water and flood, it will lead to the complete isolation of refugees and host communities, cutting them off from any form of services or assistance – as the area grows inaccessible.

There are also concerns over increased risks of waterborne and infectious diseases under the current conditions of poor access to clean water and sanitation services. This situation has triggered an emergency response with humanitarian actors trying to provide aid and relocate people far from insecure border areas before the rains hit – however, aid is visibly falling behind.

“Many refugees want to move away from the border area, but there is not enough space for them to relocate. At the same time, there are others who wish to remain where they are, in addition to continuing arrivals from Sudan,” says Audrey van der Schoot, MSF Head of Mission in Chad. “More than 100,000 people have already crossed the border into Chad since the start of the fighting in Sudan and we fear that with the coming rainfall, people in this border area will be trapped and forgotten, with no access to critical lifesaving services or information on where to access them.” 

“People may be left to make unimaginable choices; to stay without any assistance or to return to Sudan where they would be exposed to more violence and physical and psychological harm. The ongoing humanitarian action should prioritize the situation and the needs of those people that will eventually become stranded at the border,” she adds.

Faissal is a Sudanese laboratory technician who arrived among the refugees who fled the town of Foro Baranga to escape the violence. At the Andressa site in eastern Chad, he offers his help to MSF. MSF teams treated several patients suffering from diarrhoea, respiratory infections and other illnesses, mainly linked to their poor living conditions at the Andressa site
The whole team is working to remove sand from vehicles stuck in the sand in eastern Chad, where the MSF mobile clinic is carrying out medical activities for Sudanese refugees and the host community.

Nearly 30,000 refugees and returnees in Sila region in eastern Chad are receiving limited and slow humanitarian assistance. The lack of shelter, water and insufficient food had many refugees turn to other refugee families or to Chadian hosts who would share from their meagre resources. 

In response, MSF started an emergency project in cooperation with health authorities in Sila region, near the Chad-Sudan border. Through mobile clinics that reach Sudanese refugees, Chadian returnees and host communities, our teams provide medical and preventive care in Andressa and Mogororo refugee sites. Services include the screening and treatment of acute malnutrition in children, sexual and reproductive healthcare and referrals to MSF-supported Deguessa health centre or to Koukou hospital for secondary healthcare. In the first three weeks alone, medical teams treated 1460 patients, the majority of them are children suffering from malnutrition, respiratory infections, acute watery diarrhea and malaria – all of which are associated with their precarious living conditions. A total of 333 pregnant women also received ante-and post-natal care.

While running mobile clinics over the past weeks, our teams in Sila have also heard firsthand disturbing accounts from refugees who fled from the Sudanese locality of Foro Baranga and surrounding villages, south of West Darfur at only a few kilometers from Sudan’s border – most of them arriving on foot. Survivors describe their experiences under a state of shock, having been exposed to extreme levels of violence, including reported incidents of sexual and gender-based violence, torture, kidnapping, forced recruitment, looting, blackmail as well as property destruction. Those fleeing the conflict in Sudan were held under duress and made to pay so they could enter Chad, otherwise their belongings would be looted or they may face death threats by militants. 

Our teams have also taken care of over 70 injured Sudanese in our health facility in Ouaddai’s Adre region. Most of the wounded arrived with severe gunshot wounds sustained in the clashes in West Darfur - many of them were left behind, unable to travel to Chad or to receive medical treatment.  

MSF response in eastern Chad Bertin, an MSF nurse in Sila province, takes the weight and vital parameters of little Bachir, who has been brought to the clinic by his mother, before testing him for malnutrition.
The MSF team visits the Amdjiréma/Deguessa health centre in Sila province to treat complicated cases referred by the mobile clinic set up at the Andréssa site in eastern Chad.

While Chad – a country devoid of resources - experiences the repercussions of the conflict in Sudan, the silent humanitarian crisis in the country is further deepening. Chadians living in border regions are no longer able to seek healthcare during the disruptive rainy season nor to access markets in Sudan for their livelihoods. This has caused prices of food and commodities to soar – in an area with pre-existing high levels of malnutrition and where access to healthcare was already very limited for the host community. People in Chad continue to be exposed to multiple shocks caused by extreme weather changes, armed conflict and recurrent outbreaks of preventable and treatable diseases. These latest events will only increase their vulnerability and that of refugees and Chadian returnees. 

“We are facing a crisis on top of another crisis. People are trickling in whenever the conflict intensifies in Sudan, with more expected to cross into Chad as the fighting continues unabated. In an already neglected and underfunded context like Chad, the continuous arrivals from Sudan put a strain on the country’s already limited and overstretched resources and could exacerbate the existing humanitarian needs of both Sudanese refugees and the host community. An urgent scale-up of the humanitarian programming and funding for refugees from Sudan is needed, but the needs of the host community and other refugees in eastern Chad should be prioritized equally in this humanitarian response,” says Audrey.

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