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Thousands of Sudanese Refugees in Chad Face Humanitarian Crisis


A medical aid agency says fighting in Sudan is driving tens of thousands of civilians into neighboring Chad, creating a humanitarian crisis. Doctors Without Borders says 26,000 refugees who fled to Chad since the beginning of December to escape fighting in Sudan are in dire need of food, medicine, and other basic supplies.

The doctors warn the refugees are suffering from malaria and respiratory infections, and are facing an outbreak of meningitis. The agency says extreme temperatures, ranging from zero degrees Celsius at night to 30 degrees Celsius during the day, are making their health problems worse.

The agency also says reports of rapes of Sudanese women are on the rise.

Since last July, about 60,000 refugees have fled to Chad from the troubled Darfur region in northwest Sudan. The agency says most of the refugees have been able to integrate into local communities, but the latest influx has overwhelmed community support systems.

The agency's operational coordinator for Chad, Donatella Massai, describes the hardship that most of the refugees have gone through.

"If a mother has only one child in her hand, she just leave[s]," she said. "She walk[s] three days and three nights. When she arrive[s] in Chad and you ask her, for example, what about your family, and she says, well, I just fled with this child and the rest of my family I do not know, maybe they are dead, maybe they will arrive in the coming days."

Ms. Massai says when the refugees arrive in Chad, there is nothing for them.

She said international aid groups to provide some basic supplies for the refugees.

"At least let us give to these people the right assistance, some food, blankets, some material maybe to build temporary shelter," said Ms. Massai.

Darfur is a volatile region in northwestern Sudan where rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army and the Sudanese government have been engaged in long-running air and ground battles.

The rebels claim that Arab militias who have been attacking and raiding the area are being backed by the Sudanese government, while the government claims that the militias are criminals with no government backing.

The U.N. children's agency warned last week that the area is experiencing extreme human rights violations and the government is preventing aid workers from entering the area.

According to UNICEF, more than 750,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.

The Darfur conflict has not been discussed in the ongoing peace talks between the Sudanese government and the country's main rebel group, the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement.

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