Eastern Chad: MSF Treats Victims of Unexploded Ordnance

Accidents with abandoned grenades and other devices are leaving children dead and wounded

On Sunday, August 3, three children from an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp were severely wounded by an unexploded ordnance device (UXO) they found near an airstrip in Gozbeida, Chad. All three children were brought to the hospital run by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), where they are now stable and remain under MSF care.

The incident is the latest of a series of UXO incidents in eastern Chad. In the last three months, in four MSF project locations alone, 10 of these devices exploded, killing six children and injuring 14 children and adults. On August 4, a UXO exploded in the market in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, killing seven and wounding at least 10 people.

“We are deeply concerned,” says Karline Kleijer, head of mission for MSF in Chad. “Every month we are confronted with UXO victims. Most of them die, and even if we can save their lives they lose their legs or arms, leaving them completely dependent on the good will of other people for the rest of their lives in a society where disabled people have few chances in work, mobility, or even a normal social life, like marriage or having a family.” Many of these victims are internally displaced people or refugees from Sudan, people who came to the camps in these villages in search of peace and safety.

On June 28, in Hadjer Hadid, a child died due to a UXO, and two others were injured. The group of children found the hand grenade about a mile outside of town and accidentally caused it to explode.

On March 27, two boys died and another was injured by a grenade near the market in Farchana village. All three boys were Sudanese refugees. The boy who survived was semi-conscious and suffered shrapnel injuries. MSF staff took him immediately to the clinic, where he received first aid and was later referred to the hospital in Adré. The MSF mental health officer and a national staff counterpart provided mental health treatment to the families of the dead boys.

MSF has expressed its concerns over the mounting toll of UXO-related injuries to the UN and other aid agencies. According to research by the NGO Landmine Action, unexploded ordnance devices kill more children than anti-personnel mines in war-torn countries. UXOs are likely to be picked up because children do not know what they are and they are often brightly colored. "UXOs are a forgotten but lethal legacy of every war," says Kleijer. "The people in the east of Chad live in constant threat as they go about their daily lives. The only thing we as a medical organization can offer is care for the victims. But more systematic assistance to clear these devices and more education for the population about the danger is urgently needed.”