Médecins Sans Frontières warns of emerging crisis in eastern Chad

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Map of Chad showing border with Sudan.

The non-governmental aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, warned of a humanitarian crisis developing in the eastern region of Chad in central Africa, issued a press release Friday.

Chad, which shares part of its eastern border with Sudan, has been the recipient of refugees fleeing conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. In addition to the estimated 234,000 Sudanese refugees it manages, Chad now has an estimated 150,000 internally displaced persons, or IDPs, fleeing from attacks on villages in the eastern region where the government of Chad has been fighting an insurgency, which it claims was supported in the past by Sudan.

The Chadian IDPs are set up in rudimentary camps, lacking basic necessities such as food, water and proper shelter. According to a May, 2007 report by MSF's research and epidemiological survey centre, 20 percent of children in camps near Goz Beida were suffering from acute malnutrition and "catastrophic" mortality rates.

IDP mother from North Darfur holds a 27-month-old malnourished child.

MSF complained of obstacles encountered in their effort to provide medical assistance to the needy. "In Goz Beida, the IDPs receive three to eight litres of water per person per day, whereas they should have 20 litres," said Franck Joncret, MSF Head of Mission in Chad. Approximately 100 children are receiving treatment for malnutrition, while MSF estimated the number of acutely malnourished children to be greater than 2,000. "This policy of rationed aid for IDPs is unacceptable," complained Joncret.

In April, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) initiated a three month intervention for the Chadian camps, which MSF described as "inadequate". MSF also complained that they have not been given approval to open a paediatric hospital in Goz Beida to help deal with the malnutrition.

In the near term, MSF anticipated an increase in malaria and epidemic diarrhoeal diseases along with an dramatic increase in malnutrition cases. To help avert a humanitarian crisis, MSF pleaded for increased hospital capacity, a safe water supply for the camps, and the cooperation necessary to deal with malnutrition.

"It is imperative that the emergency in eastern Chad be fully recognised, that aid organisations provide massive, immediate aid to the IDPs and that the Chadian authorities facilitate humanitarian aid," said Isabelle Defourny, manager of MSF programmes in Chad. The government of Chad has said it would agree to a UN police presence, but not a military force, in its eastern regions.