West Darfur, Sudan/New York, June 16, 2006 – More than 10,000 people have fled violence in southeastern Chad and have crossed the border to take refuge in Darfur, Sudan, according to the international humanitarian aid agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
During the second week of May, refugees in search of security began arriving in Um Dukhun, a small town in the southwestern corner of Darfur, located near the junction of the Chad and Central African Republic border. Most of the new arrivals are Chadian, but a significant minority is made up of Sudanese people who initially fled the conflict in Darfur and entered Chad as far back as three years ago, and who have now been displaced again.
The refugees have told MSF that their villages in Chad were attacked, often in broad daylight, and that their animals, food stocks, money, and even their clothes were looted. The MSF team in Um Dukhun has treated more than 20 people with violence-related injuries, including those caused by gunshots, axes, swords, and beatings.
"The first attack was the worst, there were over a hundred of them," said a 25-year-old woman from the village of Um Ladja in Chad. "They scared everyone and rounded us up. They took everything and killed anyone who was in the way. They said that they were going to take all the cows, and that they would kill anyone who went to farm and take his children. We came to Um Dukhun as soon as we could get out, because they kept coming back."
During a recent assessment in southeastern Chad, MSF witnessed the consequences of ongoing violence and displacement. Because of the total lack of access to health care for the displaced and the local population, MSF in Chad is sending a mobile clinic to the affected area.
"We are doing what we can, but past experiences have shown that only part of the people being displaced in Chad actually cross the border," says Chris Lockyear, project coordinator for MSF in Um Dukhun. "The new arrivals tell us that many people ran deeper into Chad, but we do not know what condition they are in. What's more, the rainy season is upon us, which will leave many villages isolated. The rains will also make it harder to provide humanitarian assistance. We need to help these people now."
The refugees are located in four camps around Um Dukhun where MSF has been supporting a small 25-bed hospital. Following their arrival, the MSF team provided basic medical assistance, vaccinated 5,200 children against measles, and supplied plastic sheeting for temporary shelters.
MSF is providing medical assistance in 17 locations in Darfur and in 7 locations in eastern Chad.