Sudanese refugees await consultations with MSF nurses for nutritional support. Chad, 2023. © MSF © MSF

MSF calls for urgent international help for Sudanese refugees in Chad as major crisis looms

As people continue to flee the conflict in Sudan, more than 358,000 refugees have arrived at the border town Adré, in eastern Chad. Refugee camps are being built, but the shelter and basic facilities available in the camps are wholly inadequate to meet the needs of the incoming people. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling on the international community and humanitarian organisations to urgently address essential needs for people seeking safety from the conflict, to avoid a catastrophic situation.

“We are present in three refugee camps here, where approximately 2,000 refugees arrive daily,” says Susanna Borges, MSF Emergency Coordinator in Chad. “The existing camps in this area are already at full capacity, as are the temporary transit shelters. So people are being transferred to other locations far from the city, where new camps are still being built,” says Borges. “But these camps are not ready to host all the people who have been relocated there, so they are exposed to harsh sun and rain, with insufficient food, water, and even cooking supplies. There are enormous needs, and very few resources.”

In just one camp in Adre, Camp Ecole, there are 150,000 refugees. MSF supports a 250-bed paediatric ward in the Adre hospital. A 38-bed MSF clinic is operated within Camp Ecole, with an ambulance for patient referrals. The clinic is continuously full, averaging 400 consultations per day. There is an alarming rate of malnutrition. In Camp Ecole, 351 malnourished patients were registered, but some of them cannot continue their treatment as they have been relocated. Our teams are trying to track them, but the fast relocation makes it very difficult. 

Temporary structures are set up in Camp Ecole, housing 150 000 refugees, before they are relocated to permanent camps. Chad, 2023. © MSF

Our teams have installed three boreholes in Camp Ecole and more will be installed over time if more people keep crossing the border. We are delivering clean water by trucks around the camps, but the scale of needs is far greater than what we are able to deliver alone. The dire shortage of water in Ambelia and Ourang camps forces people to begin queuing at 2 a.m. with their jerrycans.

The rainy season has arrived in Chad, which brings with it a huge increase of malaria, and reaching the affected areas becomes very challenging. In just one week, the MSF clinic in Camp Ecole recorded 956 malaria cases, nearly three times the previous week’s count.

“People are arriving in really concerning health situations, because they don’t have access to food and are living in very poor conditions,” says Trish Newport, head of emergencies at MSF Geneva. “With all of this rain, we know from working in similar crises, that this brings the risk of diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera. With conditions like this, we are extremely concerned about the disease outbreaks which could occur if the humanitarian response is not urgently scaled up.”

In a country where there were already one million people either living as refugees or have been internally displaced, this latest wave of refugees from west Sudan has further strained available resources. Food prices have gone up in Adré, and most of the new arrivals cannot afford to buy food. This situation also affects the local population as their cost of living has risen while incomes remain stagnant.

There is a crucial need for international donors to mobilise resources to address the humanitarian aid gap. MSF appeals to the international community to urgently provide shelter, food, water, sanitation, and healthcare and protection services for the thousands of people who have fled unspeakable levels of violence and lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones in Sudan. A timely and sufficient humanitarian response is their only hope for surviving yet another disaster.

Sudanese refugees pictured at an MSF water distribution site in eastern Chad. Chad, 2023. © MSF