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How to turn an inflatable tent into an emergency field hospital

Watch MSF teams set up a field hospital in Chad to treat people fleeing the conflict in Sudan.

MSF aid workers with an inflatable tent hospital lit up in the night in Chad

Since the sharp escalation of conflict in Sudan in April, more than 225,000 people have fled across the border to Chad. That includes thousands of people from El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, who are now sheltering in Adré, Chad. Many arrive in Adré with gunshot wounds and other war injuries that often require surgical care. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Ministry of Health teams have been treating patients at Adré hospital, but the needs are overwhelming.  

Building an inflatable hospital in Chad

To handle the arrival of wounded patients, MSF teams set up an emergency field hospital in Adré using a modular hospital kit made up of inflatable tents.

Watch how it came together

The tents are called “inflatable” because they are made up of arches, which, once inflated, create the structure of the building. They are made of weatherproof material that makes them quick and easy to set up and light for transportation. These innovative structures have been used to treat patients in the aftermath of natural disasters in countries like Haiti, Philippines and Nepal, and in war zones in countries like Yemen and Syria. The one in Adré has a bed capacity for 170 patients, two operation theaters, various support services including X-ray technology, and space to extend the existing maternity wards at the hospital. 

Local sources report that at least 1,100 people have been killed in El-Geneina city since the conflict began in mid-April. From from June 16 to June 19, MSF treated over 900 wounded people who reached its hospital in Adré. Patients consistently told our teams that they had been shot at – and that they had witnessed many being killed – as they fled El Geneina, which has been under siege for more than two months.   

MSF team members construct an inflatable tent to be used as an emergency field hospital to treat Sudanese refugees in Chad.
Chad 2023 © MSF/Mohammad Ghannam

This modular hospital is especially needed now. Adré hospital received over 600 injured patients by the second week in June. Among them, about 430 needed  surgical care. Some patients were referred to other hospitals in Abéché, Chad’s fourth-largest city, located about 100 miles away. 

MSF aid workers stand in front of an inflatable tent hospital for Sudanese refugees in Adre, Chad
Chad 2023 © Mohammad Ghannam/MSF

The pediatric and nutrition wards in Adré hospital are incredibly overcrowded, despite a recent addition of 50 extra beds. Acute malnutrition and measles are the main health issues among patients, and the situation is expected to become even more complicated with the onset of the peak malaria season later this month.  

To see how MSF is using inflatable tents to meet urgent needs in Adré, watch the new video here

Sudan crisis response