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Sudan: Intense fighting in Darfur forces thousands to flee to Chad

“We have seen mothers and children who had to leave Sudan with nothing, as their homes were being destroyed.”

First patient admitted as the influx of refugees from Sudan increased after intensified fighting in El Geneina

Chad 2023 © Jan Bohm/MSF

November 7, 2023—A resurgence of fighting and violence against civilians in El Geneina, in Sudan’s West Darfur region, has forced thousands of people to cross into eastern Chad as refugees in recent days, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are reporting.

Refugees coming from Sudan are mainly women and children, and they describe fleeing large-scale violence against civilians.

“El Geneina experienced a nightmarish escalation of violence last June, and it pushed a large proportion of the city’s inhabitants to flee to Chad, despite the many dangers and attacks that awaited them on the road," said Alkassoum Abdourahamane, MSF project coordinator for El Geneina, the regional capital. "The city then experienced a relative lull and even hosted displaced people from other locations. Now, the blasts and the fear have once again taken over.”

From Nov. 1 to 3, about 7,000 people crossed the border near the city of Adré, in eastern Chad, where MSF teams treated 36 wounded people on Nov. 4 and 5.

“In the first three days of November, we have seen more new arrivals of Sudanese refugees than during the whole previous month,” said Stephanie Hoffmann, MSF outreach coordinator in Adré. “We have seen mothers and children who had to leave Sudan with nothing, as their homes were being destroyed.”

People fleeing attacks have immediate needs

In a health post at the border crossing in Adré, MSF teams provide medical services by vaccinating children against measles, screening for malnutrition, and referring those in need of urgent specialized health care directly to Adré hospital, where they are being treated by MSF and staff from the Chadian Ministry of Health.

A few hundred meters from the border crossing, refugees wait for new arrivals from Sudan, hoping to get news of their families. Often, they learn about the loss of their loved ones back home in Sudan. MSF teams now also offer mental health support to people in distress at the crossing and have installed a water tank to provide safe drinking water after the grueling journey.

“Last night, my sister’s house was bombed,” said Amne, a 33-year-old woman who crossed the border with her four children. “It was next to ours. Our house caught fire from the explosion, and we immediately got out. I do not know what happened to my sister, whether she survived or not.”

She points to her dress, saying that it is the only possession she was able to bring with her.

At the MSF hospital in Adré, a 27-year-old man arrived with multiple bullet wounds to his hands and legs after fleeing El Geneina. He described being the sole survivor among a group of 16 people who were attacked on the road. He lived only by pretending to be dead, and eventually crossed the border with the help of another group of refugees.

A humanitarian crisis due to war in Sudan

Since the outbreak of war in Sudan in April, millions of people have been forced to flee their homes. While most displaced Sudanese people are still in Sudan, an estimated 1.1 million people have crossed the border into neighboring countries. The majority of these are now in Chad, a country already facing multiple humanitarian crises.

Sudan crisis response

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“Despite the collective efforts of local communities, authorities and humanitarian organizations, the humanitarian response doesn’t yet match the magnitude of the crisis in eastern Chad, which is also putting a strain on vulnerable host communities,” said Claire Nicolet, head of MSF emergency response for Chad and Sudan. “Many people are living in makeshift camps where conditions remain dire. Meanwhile the latest increase in refugee arrivals is another indication that needs are continuing to grow and that the conflict fueling them is far from over. We continue to call for an immediate scale-up of humanitarian aid to help the most vulnerable, both refugees and Chadians, and to ensure access to basic services such as water, health care, shelter and food.”

The stories of the latest arrivals echo those of the massive numbers of refugees who reached Adré in June, when the population of the small town tripled. From June 15 to 17 the hospital received over 850 war-wounded people, one of the largest number of casualties that MSF teams have ever had to manage. Many patients suffering gunshot wounds, particularly to the abdomen, back and legs, reported harrowing violence in El Geneina and attacks on the road to Chad, with armed men who shot at people fleeing. 

MSF's response in eastern Chad and West Darfur

In eastern Chad, MSF teams are delivering vital medical care in Adré, Ourang, and Metche camps in Ouaddaï province, as well as in the Goz Achiye, Daguessa and Anderessa camps located in Sila province.

Since the onset of its emergency response in eastern Chad, MSF has carried out more than 96,000 medical consultations, hospitalized 8,492 patients, treated 7,155 patients for malnutrition and 31,955 for malaria, performed 1,634 surgeries, and assisted in 1,043 deliveries. Our teams are also distributing essential relief items and providing up to 80% of the drinking water available to refugees.

In West Darfur MSF donated medical supplies to the emergency department of the El Geneina Teaching Hospital on Nov. 5, which have already been used to help treat 120 patients. The team has also made donations to three health centers on the road between El Geneina and Adré, providing kits to treat malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections in both adults and children.

Sudan crisis response