In eastern Chad, increasing violence since 2007 has forced more than 180,000 Chadians to live in displaced-persons camps. Since 2003, more than 240,000 refugees from Darfur have been living in camps in eastern Chad, depending entirely on international aid. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides medical care to more than 100,000 people living in refugee camps, internally displaced people, and to the surrounding Chadian population.
On Saturday, June 14, fighting erupted in and around Goz Beida, a small town in eastern Chad, where a team is based to provide assistance to about 10,000 displaced people in nearby Gassire camp. MSF Head of Mission Karline Klejer describes what happened.
What did you witness and what did the MSF team do?
On Saturday, our team had stayed in Goz Beida town as there were rumours that there might be a rebel attack. So we did not go to the Gassire displaced camp as usual which is seven kilometers outside town. When the attack started with heavy shelling we immediately went to our safe room, which is a room in the middle of our office. It is considered to be the safest because it is surrounded by several walls or sand bags and has few windows. We stayed in the safe room for two hours.
After the fighting had stopped several team members—a doctor, a surgeon and two nurses—assisted the Ministry of Health staff in the hospital with all the wounded. In total, our team saw 27 injured people, mainly gunshot wounds. Two of them died. Five of the 27 injured were civilians. One of those who died was also a civilian.
What are the consequences for the resident and displaced people in and around Goz Beida?
Luckily the camps with more than 40,000 internally displaced Chadians were not directly affected by last weekend’s fighting. But all nongovernmental organizations had to stop their assistance for the past days. Hopefully activities can resume quickly.
How is the situation now?
The situation remains tense, the rebels are out in the bush and nobody knows what their plans are, there are constantly rumours floating around and there is sporadic fighting all over the eastern Chad. People are very scared.
What are MSF’s plans for the coming weeks, as other organisations have evacuated their staff from the area?
MSF’s plans are to stay with the population, as this is why we are here. We will reduce our teams to the minimum so that we can still help injured people. The population in Chad is constantly under threat of new violence, which is either the result of home-grown tensions or by rebel attacks. We try to assist the population where we can with basic health care and nutritional support for malnourished children.