With Focus on Darfur, Emergency Situation Unfolding in Eastern Chad

New York, June 8, 2007 – While Darfur remains the focus of intense political discussions surrounding the establishment of humanitarian corridors from Chad–of little relation to the reality on the ground—150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are caught up in a growing humanitarian crisis in Chad itself, the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. Although a recent MSF survey has confirmed an emergency situation, assistance is still largely insufficient and MSF is confronting numerous obstacles to increasing its activities inside Chad.

In eastern Chad, repeated deadly attacks on villages over the past eighteen months have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Grouped together in camps where security is not always guaranteed, they live in basic huts and lack food, water, and access to medical care.

At the end of May, Epicentre, MSF's research and epidemiological survey center, carried out a survey in IDP camps around Goz Beida in eastern Chad. The survey revealed that one child in five was suffering from acute malnutrition and that the mortality rates from March 30 to May 20, 2007 were catastrophic.

Until recently, the assistance provided by many organizations in Chad focused on refugees arriving from Darfur, and neglected the IDP population. In April, the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) finally launched a three-month emergency plan, but its objectives in terms of food, water, and shelter are inadequate.

"In Goz Beida, the IDPs receive 3-8 liters of water per person per day, whereas they should have 20 liters," said Franck Joncret, head of mission for MSF in Chad. "Only around one hundred malnourished children are receiving treatment, but our survey estimated that at least 2,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition."

MSF is present in Dogdore, Goz Beida, Ade, Koukou, and Kerfi, and is extending its activities. In certain localities however, MSF is facing considerable obstacles. Despite repeated requests, MSF is still being refused authorization to open a pediatric hospital in Goz Beida, which would focus in particular on treating malnourished children.

There will be an increase in malaria cases and epidemic diarrhoeal diseases during the rainy season, which starts at the end of this month. MSF also fears a significant increase in malnutrition. Given the anticipated deterioration of the situation, it is urgent, in order to avoid a catastrophe, to increase hospitalization capacity, improve the water supply, and respond to the nutritional problems.

"It is imperative that the emergency in eastern Chad be fully recognized, that aid organizations provide massive, immediate aid to the IDPs, and that the Chadian authorities facilitate humanitarian aid," said Isabelle Defourny, head of MSF programs in Chad.