Rumours forecast violent outbreaks in eastern Chad
20 June 2008
On Saturday, 14 June, fighting erupted place in Goz Beida, a small town in eastern Chad where an MSF team is based to provide assistance to about 10,000 displaced people in nearby Gassire camp. MSF Head of Mission Karline Klejer describes what happened. What did you witness and what did the MSF team do? "On Saturday, our team had stayed in Goz Beida town as there were rumours that there might be a rebel attack. So we did not go to the Gassire displaced camp, as usual, which is seven kilometres outside town. "When the attack started with heavy shelling we immediately went to our safe room, which is a room in the middle of our office. It is considered to be the safest because it is surrounded by several walls or sand bags and has few windows. We stayed in the safe room for two hours. "After the fighting had stopped several team members - a doctor, a surgeon and two nurses - assisted the Ministry of Health staff in the hospital with all the wounded. "In total, our team saw 27 injured people, mainly gunshot wounds. Two of them died. Five of the 27 injured were civilians. One of those who died was also a civilian." What are the consequences for the resident and displaced people in and around Goz Beida? "Luckily the camps with over 40,000 internally displaced Chadians were not directly affected by last weekend's fighting. But all non-governmental organisations had to stop their assistance for the past days. Hopefully activities can resume quickly." How is the situation now? "The situation remains tense. The rebels are out in the bush and nobody knows what their plans are. There are constantly rumours floating around and there is sporadic fighting all over the east of Chad. People are very scared and panic easily." What are MSF's plans for the coming weeks, as other organisations have evacuated their staff from the area? "MSF plans are to stay with the population - this is why we are here. We will reduce our teams to the minimum so that we can still help injured people. "The population in Chad is constantly under threat of new violence, which are either the result of home-grown tensions or by rebel attacks. We try to assist the population where we can with basic health care and nutritional support for malnourished children." Background info In Eastern Chad, increasing violence has lead to massive population displacement, with over 180,000 Chadian displaced living in camps and IDP sites at the end of 2007. Despite difficult security conditions, MSF managed to increase assistance to IDPs, providing primary and secondary health care, drinking water, food and relief items. Since 2003, more than 240,000 refugees from Darfur have been living in camps in eastern Chad, depending entirely on international aid. In 2007, MSF continued to provide medical care to more than 100,000 people living in refugee camps and to the surrounding Chadian population.