TISSI, CHAD/NEW YORK, APRIL 26, 2013—Violent clashes in Sudan's Darfur region have driven approximately 50,000 people across the border into southeastern Chad since early March, where a lack of food, water, shelter, and basic services is developing into a humanitarian crisis, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
In addition to Sudanese refugees, the displaced population includes citizens from Chad and the Central African Republic who previously took refuge in Darfur. Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed before the looming rainy season cuts off road access to many areas, MSF said.
“We arrived in Tissi in the first week of April to respond to a measles outbreak among the local population and refugees,” said Stefano Argenziano, head of mission for MSF. “It soon became clear to us that families have other urgent needs. Most of the recently arrived refugees have no access to health care, food, or clean water. They live mostly under trees, which do not provide much shade, and they have nothing with which to protect themselves against the dust and heat during the day and the cold during the night.”
The health status of the refugees is likely to deteriorate rapidly, making them vulnerable to malaria, malnutrition, and epidemics.
Since the Tissi area has no functioning hospital, MSF teams are providing emergency and primary health care to the refugee and Chadian populations. An emergency room has been set up in the town of Tissi to treat the wounded, children under the age of five, and pregnant women. To date, MSF has treated 40 patients who suffered from bullet and knife injuries while fleeing the conflict, and an additional 24 local residents who were wounded in a road accident. Eighteen severely wounded patients were stabilized and evacuated to the town of Abeche, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
In Tissi itself, MSF has improved the capacity of the town’s only source of clean water and is planning to hold mobile clinics at the surrounding sites. An emergency team has completed vaccinating 30,200 people under the age of 15 and has treated 52 patients for measles. During a measles vaccination, MSF screened 13,700 children for malnutrition and admitted 120 children into a therapeutic feeding program.
The living conditions of the displaced population, the majority of whom are women and children, are deteriorating quickly. Parents have told MSF teams that their children are increasingly falling ill. With the onset of the rainy season just two months away, time is running out, MSF said.
“Once the rainy season starts, our access to these camps will be impossible by road and the refugees will be completely cut off," Argenziano said. "With poor sanitary conditions and the lack of access to clean water, we are monitoring for an increase in malaria and respiratory infections, and also for a possible outbreak of cholera.”
None of the sites where the refugees have settled are official refugee camps. Due to the proximity of the sites to the Sudanese border and security concerns, UN agencies and most aid organizations have to-date been reluctant to provide assistance.
MSF has been working in Chad since 1983 and currently has projects in Am Timan, Abeche, Massakory, and Moissala.