Roughly 25,000 refugees and returnees had already been living in and around five villages in southeastern Chad for nearly three months. But starting on April 4, 2013, an additional 10,000 began to arrive, having fled violent clashes in Um Dukhun, Sudan, 10 kilometers [about 6 miles] away from the border. And there’s every indication that more are on their way.
They tell similar stories, of villages attacked and set on fire by armed men on horseback, of neighbors and family members killed, of women and children abandoning all their belongings and taking flight. Fighting resumed between several Arab tribes of North and Central Darfur States a few months ago, but the situation has deteriorated dramatically in recent days.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 10,000 people, including dozens of wounded, have now joined the 25,000 previously settled refugees—roughly one-third of whom were from Sudan and Central African Republic (CAR), while the rest were originally from Chad but had relocated to Darfur and CAR. More than 90 percent are women. They’ve been living under trees or in makeshift shelters, having thus far gone without any assistance.
At present, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is treating the wounded in Tissi and referring the most serious cases to Goz Beida or Abéché. At the same time, teams are trying to contend with an outbreak of measles in a nearby area. “In Saraf Bourgou only, our team has confirmed 35 cases of measles, which represents 25 percent of consultations,” says Alexandre Morhain, MSF’s head of mission in Chad. “The disease has already killed seven children, five of whom were under five years old.” MSF, in collaboration with the Chadian Ministry of Public Health, will soon launch an emergency measles vaccination campaign covering the whole Tissi area and will also treat severe acute malnutrition cases and pediatric emergencies.
There are many other issues as well. “Refugees have no food stocks, and nearly no access to clean drinkable water,” says Morhain. “Their situation is extremely precarious and it is urgent that other humanitarian actors in Chad rapidly move to organize distributions of food and non-food items.” With the rainy season, the urgency is even greater, he adds: “We need to act now, because within two months it will be impossible to access this area by road.”