Thousands of Nigerian Refugees Seek Safety in Chad

JM Whiky Van Laere/MSF

Thousands of people fleeing attacks by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria have recently crossed the border into neighboring Chad. According to official estimates, around 18,000 refugees have sought shelter in the Lake Chad region, in a refugee camp and among the community. Insecurity within Chad itself has also increased since an attack on the town of Ngouboua, 25 kilometers [about 15 miles] from the Nigerian border, which caused thousands of refugees and residents to flee for safety.

In response, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) deployed an emergency team to the region to assess the humanitarian needs. The team was able to reach the main towns and Dar as Salam refugee camp, where some 3,700 people are gathered. However, due to insecurity, they could not access several other locations where other refugees are essentially trapped, unable to leave.

 “People are living in extremely precarious conditions,” says Stéphanie Giandonato, MSF head of mission in Chad. “Chadian residents have not been spared from the instability, with many forced to flee their homes. Refugees from Nigeria have arrived without any basic possessions. In the communities, medical facilities are under strain with the influx of thousands of people in the last months.”

Psychological Support and Medical Care a priority

Psychological support will be a key component of MSF’s medical activities in response to this situation. In the coming days, MSF psychologists will begin providing mental health care through individual and group sessions in Dar as Salam refugee camp and in Bagasola and Ngouboua. MSF will also provide psychological support and medical assistance to victims of sexual violence.

“People are extremely fearful after experiencing the trauma of the attacks, first in Nigeria and then in Chad,” says Giandonato. “Many have lost family members; they are anxious, and they do not know what the future holds for them.”

With health facilities under pressure, MSF has also provided medical kits to the Ngouboua health center, with enough drugs and medical equipment for 1,000 people. Basic clinics will be set up this week to deliver health care in some of the most-affected areas.

Distribution of Essential Relief Items

In collaboration with local authorities, MSF has supplied around 6,000 people in Ngouboua, Bagasola, and nearby Forkouloum with hygiene and shelter kits. The kits included blankets and plastic sheeting as well as mosquito nets to protect against malaria, endemic in the region.

Access to clean water is a major concern, particularly due to the high rate of diarrheal diseases in this area. Following education sessions on the importance of clean water, the team has distributed water chlorination kits to refugees and residents in Ngouboua and Forkouloum.

MSF will continue to evaluate the humanitarian needs in the Lake Chad region as the situation develops and is prepared to expand medical and relief activities should there be a additional influx of people.

MSF has been working in Chad for more than 30 years. The organization runs regular programs in Abéché, Am Timan, Massakory, Moissala, and Tissi. In 2014, MSF also started emergency projects in Bokoro in response to acute malnutrition, and in Sido and Gore in southern Chad to meet the medical and humanitarian needs of refugees fleeing Central African Republic.

JM Whiky Van Laere/MSF