A medical aid group says conditions are getting worse for tens of thousands of people who’ve fled fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region. Refugees and others have been gathering for months in the Chadian town of Tissi.
Fighting in North Darfur State has been going on since January. Rival Arab tribes are battling over gold mining rights. Hundreds of people have been reported killed. Thousands have been displaced within Darfur and many others have crossed the border into Chad.
Doctors without Borders, also known by the French acronym MSF, has been providing medical care in and around Tissi since April.
MSF Head of Mission Jason Mills said about 55,000 people have fled violence in Darfur.
“They’re spread out into many different encampments around the area of 200 – 500 – 600 families – for the returnees, who are Chadians, who had previously fled to Darfur to seek aid 10 years ago. And then you have refugees – and there’s about 30,000 refugees – who have fled from Darfur into Chad --about half of them living in a camp called Ab Gadam, 30 kilometers west of Tissi. And then there are also another 15,000 or so spread out north in the bush.”
Mills said it’s a logistical challenge to help all those in need – and the challenge will only become greater as the rainy season kicks in. The wadis and swamps will fill up and become impassable.
“We’ve pre-positioned a lot of materials in advance. Teams have been working hard over the last couple of months to get non-food item kits of plastic sheeting, jerry cans, utensils, things like this in place and get them distributed before the rains. To get latrines constructed in the camp and also in some of the returnee settlements,” he said.
MSF will also position its medical teams in different areas to give them better access during the rainy season. Also, the World Food Program is providing helicopter service to transport humanitarian workers.
The major health issues now include watery diarrhea, especially among children under age five, along with respiratory problems. And there are fears conditions are right for a possible cholera outbreak. In addition, Mills said that many have been victims of the fighting.
“Twenty four percent of all our admissions in the hospital in Tissi are related to violence. Just yesterday the fighting resumed seven kilometers east of Tissi inside Darfur. Yesterday we received 15 new wounded – mostly walking wounded, who were able to make it to the Tissi hospital. We’re very concerned about people who perhaps were not able to make it and who don’t have access to any services inside Darfur,” he said.
Doctors without Borders also reported rising levels of malnutrition among the refugees and returnees.