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Health Conditions Deteriorate in Eastern Chad


Experts fear health conditions will worsen dramatically in eastern Chad, where fighting has been intense between rebels and government forces. Humanitarian groups recently pulled medical staff out, leaving locals and refugees from Sudan's Darfur conflict, with little access to care. Phuong Tran reports from VOA's Dakar bureau.

The health of many Sudanese refugees and Chadians displaced by fighting is worsening, according to Giuseppe Annunziata with the Geneva-based World Health Organization.

"There are problems in accessibility to refugee camps," said Annunziata. "We are not receiving updates. Security is hampering access. From several sources, we are all in consensus that the situation can be considered a crisis."

Over the past year, violence and fighting in western Sudan forced hundreds-of-thousands of Sudanese refugees to flee into eastern Chad. Twelve refugee camps line the Sudanese-Chadian border.

More recent clashes between rebel and Chadian government forces have displaced nearly 70,000 Chadians, according to the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

The rebels seek to topple the Idriss Déby government, which they accuse of committing widespread human rights abuses.

The World Health Organization has pulled out most of its international staff in eastern Chad, leaving just three international staff and six local staff in its main Abéché office.

One of its medical officers, Annunziata, says that poor living and sanitary conditions make displaced Chadians and refugees vulnerable to water-borne diseases and acute respiratory infections.

Groups are still providing medical assistance in the region, including Doctors Without Borders and some U.N. agencies, but these organizations have significantly cut back their health services.

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