Chad: First Signs of Malnutrition Among Refugees

MSF appeals for urgent UN intervention

Brussels, May 28, 2003 - The first signs of malnutrition are now evident among the refugee population in Goré, Chad, 15 mile from the Central African Republic (CAR) border. In a recent food security assessment carried out by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), 30% of children under 5 years of age are now at risk of acute malnutrition. Yet still no food is forthcoming.

"Since March, the refugees have received a total of 8kg of cereal per person: less than a third of the amount required," explained Chris Verhecken, MSF's emergency coordinator. "There are no seeds to plant and there is no food to eat, the result is that in our clinics we already see an increasing number of malnourished children."

From the outset of this crisis more than 6 months ago, MSF has been providing water, shelter and medical assistance but is pushed to the limits of its capacity. MSF has repeatedly made calls to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to do more to aid these refugees.

"This population is urgently in need of more assistance, particularly in terms of food and a higher level of protection," Verhecken continued, "and because of the rains last weekend the situation has become even more precarious."

Continuing insecurity in CAR prevents most refugees from returning home. The food shortage has reached such desperate levels some refugees are willing to risk their lives undertaking the journey

In November 2002 the first influx of refugees arrived in Chad, fleeing the war-stricken Central African Republic (CAR). Today, 41,000 people remain in a dire situation, and MSF calls on the UNHCR and the World Food Program (WFP) to live up to their responsibilities and bring aid and protection before it is too late.