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An MSF logistician's journey from Sudan to Chad

Moussa Ibrahim reports back after crossing the border into Adré, Chad to assess potential logistical support for West Darfur.

MSF trucks bring aid to Sudanese refugees at Andréssa school in Chad’s Sila province

Chad 2023 © Johnny Vianney Bissakonou/MSF

The town of El Geneina, in West Darfur, Sudan, is named after the Arabic word for “garden,” but its meaning bears little resemblance to the current reality that people there are living through, almost two months since the current bout of violence erupted in Khartoum. Around 500 people have been killed in El Geneina since the fighting began, and about as many wounded remain trapped in the city, unable to access lifesaving treatment. No one can get into the city to help them, and no one can get them out.

A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) surgical team is waiting across the border in nearby 
Adré, Chad, but the ongoing fighting has made it impossible to evacuate patients.

By Moussa Ibrahim, MSF logistics supervisor in El Geneina, Sudan

Since July 2021, I have held the position of logistics supervisor with MSF and have been living in El Geneina. My visit to Chad was necessitated by the communications blackout that we have been experiencing due to internet and communications disruptions. The visit also aimed to closely establish coordination with MSF teams based in Adré, who have been on standby, ready to intervene and support local initiatives wherever possible.

The journey from El Geneina to Chad is riddled with dangers as armed groups often patrol the roads and can stop you on your route. There is no guarantee of security. The consequences of the escalating conflict have been devastating, with attacks on humanitarian organizations, police headquarters (where weapons were stolen), and civilian locations like the local market and university.

In these harrowing circumstances, the hospital that MSF supports was also looted. All the medical materials were stolen, and parts of the hospital were destroyed.

Empty beds at El Geneina Teaching Hospital in Sudan
Inside the inpatient department supported by MSF at El Geneina Teaching Hospital, which was partially looted on April 27. Sudan 2023 © MSF

As a humanitarian logistician, it's heartbreaking to witness the destruction of all our efforts developed over the past years. For years, MSF provided medical assistance to all communities in West Darfur who, due to frequent violence, would otherwise have no access to health care.

At El Geneina Teaching Hospital, MSF managed the pediatric and nutrition inpatient departments, infection prevention and control measures, and water and sanitation services. Over the years, we have witnessed a steady stream of patients coming not just from El Geneina city and the nearest camps for displaced families, but from all over West Darfur.

Movement in the city is currently limited to proximity around one's house due to the risk of random shootings, snipers, and carjackings. It can be dangerous to access basic necessities like water, and even the task of retrieving bodies from the streets has become impossible as the situation has worsened. Five days ago [we were] finally able to collect the bodies, but by that point they were too decomposed to remove. Now, the best we can do is gather the bodies in a single location until the fighting stops.

It can be dangerous to access basic necessities like water, and even the task of retrieving bodies from the streets has become impossible as the situation has worsened

This situation is unbearable and requires urgent intervention. Community leaders and all warring parties must negotiate to bring an end to this horrific situation. Most NGOs have left, and it is absolutely imperative to ensure the safety of the medical personnel and facilities that remain, such as our MSF teams, who remain committed to providing much-needed care to the people enduring this crisis. It is absolutely imperative that civilian lives are spared.

Despite these circumstances, my stay in Chad was brief as I needed to return to my family in El Geneina. Nevertheless, the situation remains dire, and urgent action is necessary to ensure the safety of El Geneina's people and health workers.

MSF activities in El Geneina

El Geneina is the capital of West Darfur State and has been grappling with decades of violence and displacement. In the initial days of the current conflict, El Geneina remained calm, but on April 24, heavy fighting erupted between warring parties and youth from surrounding communities. Given the lack of security in the community, it quickly became a hotspot for intense fighting and frequent looting.

The residents of El Geneina are now caught in a tidal wave of violence and insecurity, their lives endangered not just by the fighting, but also by their inability to access health care. Pregnant women, children, the wounded, the elderly—anyone seeking medical care is affected. There is also limited access to basic necessities like drinking water, adding to the daily challenges people are facing in El Geneina and throughout much of Sudan.

For the past few years, MSF has been supporting El Geneina Teaching Hospital, which is the main health facility in West Darfur. During the first days of the conflict, MSF’s team at the hospital managed to provide the remaining supply of medications to various communities. However, services at the hospital were suspended after it was looted on April 26. Our teams have not been able to access the hospital since, nor have they been able conduct mobile clinic activities in the nomadic communities of Galala, Mogshasha, Wadi Rati, and Gelchek. We have been able to continue providing services at Kreinik Hospital, but it is running out of supplies.

Sudan crisis response