A triple suicide attack that took place on the island of Koulfoua in the Lake Chad area in Chad on Saturday morning has reportedly killed 30 people and wounded up to 200. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in the area immediately mobilized to provide support to the Chadian Ministry of Health.
The attacks took place at around 10:00 a.m. on the morning of December 5 in busy market areas. Wounded people had to be evacuated by boat as there was no easy access to the remote and isolated island. They were first taken to Guitté, a town on the shores of Lake Chad. Forty-two patients were transferred to the district hospital of Mani, a town on the border with Cameroon. The most severely wounded who required advanced surgical care—36 patients in total, including 14 children—were transferred by ambulance to the capital, N’Djamena.
“This is one of the biggest attacks we have seen in the area in recent months,” says Federica Alberti, MSF head of mission in Chad. “In Mani, the hospital did not have enough space or medications and equipment to deal with the number of wounded. An MSF team composed of a surgeon, a doctor, a nurse, and two logisticians arrived Sunday afternoon to support the Ministry of Health in the response, and teams are now working around the clock to provide lifesaving care.”
MSF installed three tents with a total of 30 beds to expand the capacity of Mani Hospital. On Sunday afternoon, the team assisted the hospital staff in providing surgical care for 37 wounded patients. The MSF logistics team also ensured that electricity and running water were available to support the medical activities.
In N’Djamena, where the 36 severely wounded patients were transferred to, MSF is supporting the General Hospital and Liberty Hospital. Teams also support the Mother and Child Hospital, where 11 children are currently in serious condition. In all three hospitals, MSF teams donated essential medications and surgical supplies to assist the Ministry of Health in the response.
MSF has been working in Chad since 1981, and currently runs regular medical programs in Abéché, Am Timan, and Moissala. MSF launched an emergency response for people displaced due to violence by Islamic State’s West Africa Province, also known as Boko Haram, in March 2015. Teams are now based in Baga Sola and Bol. In N’Djamena, MSF also supported Ministry of Health hospitals following suicide bomb attacks that took place on June 15 and July 11.
Since April this year, MSF has been training Ministry of Health staff on the management of mass casualties in order to increase their capacity to respond to emergency situations. Similar trainings have also recently been carried out in Abéché Regional Hospital, and surgical kits have been donated.
MSF teams are currently present in several locations in the other three countries bordering Lake Chad. In northern Nigeria, MSF is providing essential medical care to displaced and host communities in Borno and Yobe states. In northern Cameroon, MSF is running health facilities in Minawao, Mora, Mokolo, and Kousseri. Lifesaving medical care is also provided in the Diffa region of Niger.