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Chad: MSF continues to respond to refugees & returnees as rainy season begins

By Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
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LONDON, United-Kingdom, May 30, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- As the rainy season begins in south eastern Chad, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is racing against time to assist tens of thousands of refugees and returnees who have temporarily re-settled to evade clashes in neighboring Darfur.

Since early March, an estimated 50,000 Sudanese, Chadian and Central African civilians have crossed the border into Chad. The refugees are mainly women and children, with 40 percent of those under the age of five. They are traumatized and exhausted by their recent displacement and are in need of basic healthcare, water, food, shelter and proper sanitation.

As the Tissi area has no functioning hospital, MSF teams are working to provide emergency and primary health care to the refugees and Chadian population. An emergency room has been set up in the town of Tissi to treat wounded patients, children under the age of five and pregnant women. In the last 4 weeks, MSF staff has held nearly 7 000 consultations in the area. Top morbidities observed are diarrheal diseases and respiratory tract infections. In addition, 32,000 children under the age of 15 have been vaccinated to contain a measles outbreak which killed 13 children before April. Within the broader needs for protection of vulnerable populations, women and girls are also facing an increased risk of sexual and gender based violence, with two cases of rape treated by MSF just in the past week.

In ten villages, returnees and refugees have received plastic sheeting, blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans and soap. MSF drilled six boreholes north of Tissi to help provide the population with water. “With the rains starting, access to clean and drinkable water is of major importance,” says Delphine Chedorge, MSF emergency co-ordinator.

In some locations, such as Saraf Bourgou, north of Tissi town, Chadian returnees have left the area and re-settled back to their villages of origin. But the Sudanese refugees are in a more precarious position. “Health conditions of the population are at risk of potential deterioration because of limited access to water, food and shelter,” says Stefano Argenziano, Head of Mission for MSF.

As the rains set in there is fear that roads to the refugee camps will become impassable, the only airstrip in the area will become unusable, and aid may be cut off. “We will continue to provide healthcare to refugees and returnees in Tissi, but it will be a challenge, says Stefano Argenziano. We are doing everything we can to ensure that assistance will not be cut off.”

Security in this cross-border area stretched between Sudan and Central African Republic is volatile with circulation of armed groups, militias and bandits.

MSF is calling on the Chad government, the UN and the humanitarian community to ensure, throughout the rainy season, the security and continued support of the remaining refugees and returnees, who have settled in more than a dozen sites, along a 100 kilometre stretch inside the Chad border.

MSF has been working in Chad since 1980 and currently has projects in Am Timan, Abeche, Massakory and Moissala.

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