MSF provides health care for Sudanese refugees in Chad

Tiné, Chad - Ongoing fighting in the province of Darfur in western Sudan has caused thousands of people to flee into neighbouring Chad. Most refugees are staying in scattered towns and villages along the border and are living under very difficult conditions. There is a lack of food, clean water and shelter. Until now, the refugees have had no, or hardly any, access to medical care.

On September 25, MSF opened a health centre in the border town of Tiné (in the Chadian province Biltine) to provide medical care for the Sudanese refugees. MSF built four tents on the outskirts of a camp where thousands of people - most of them women and children - live in a high proximity. The tents house a consultation room, paediatric unit, pharmacy and male and female in-patient areas.

During the first days of consultation the main health problem was diarrhoea.

"The bad quality of the water is probably the reason for the high number of patients we are seeing with diarrhoea . People here have to drink the unfiltered water they find by digging in a dry riverbed," said MSF nurse Fabienne Gaborieau.

In addition, many people suffer from respiratory infections.

"At this time of the year the sun is burning at daytime but during the night it is very cold and people have no sheets or warm clothes to protect themselves against it," said Gaborieau.

Another concern is nutrition. Most people in Tiné camp live exclusively on cooked millet.

"We identified more than 20 severely malnourished children in only three days. People here have no food reserves at all," said Gaborieau.

Another MSF team has set up a health unit in the village of Birak, about 200 km south of Tiné. In Birak the refugees are dispersed over a wider area therefore the medical facilities are situated 1,5 km outside of the village.

According to MSF Emergency Coordinator Dan Sermand, "A substantial number of refugees fled to Tiné and Birak. But there are probably many other Sudanese along the 300 km borderline between the towns of Bahaï in the north and Adré in the south. Until now MSF has not been able to reach these people."

About 33 tonnes (four truckloads) of relief supplies were flown into Chad last week, mainly material to build the health centres but also vaccines against measles and therapeutic milk powder and food for the malnourished. On top of this pumps, pipes and tanks for the provision of clean water have been sent.

For the moment, eight MSF expats are working in Tiné and Birak. They receive support from a base in the province capital of Abéché and the MSF coordination team in the capital N'Djamena.