Thousands of people who fled violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) are now in Sido, southern Chad. They need emergency aid. “The World Food Programme and the Chadian authorities must distribute food immediately to these destitute populations,” says Sarah Chateau, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Chad
Paris, N’Djamena, 28 February 2014 - After an exhausting trip on convoys, most of which came under attack in CAR, the refugees are now in Sido, southern Chad, experiencing extremely precarious sanitary and living conditions. They have received only one food distribution from the World Food Programme (WFP), which took place on January 20 – more than five weeks ago. “More than 8,000 refugees have arrived since that time,” says Augustin Ngoyi, MSF programme coordinator in Sido. “They have not gotten anything to eat, apart from the few protein biscuits that some of them received.”
Most of the refugees in Sido are living in makeshift shelters, with the newest arrivals camped out under the trees, protected only by their clothes. There are just 20 latrines and four water points for the 13,200 refugees there now. Malaria represents nearly 30% of the diseases treated at the MSF health centre. MSF treated 56 children with acute severe malnutrition over a 16-day period.
Local authorities on site are struggling to deal with this crisis, but face a desperate lack of resources and support. MSF is the only international organization working in Sido.
“Authorities must act right away”
“The refugees need emergency food aid, as well as mosquito nets, shelters and latrines,” Ngoyi says. “The UN agencies, including the WFP, and the Chadian authorities must act right away.”
In late December 2013, the Chadian government launched a massive evacuation of people who were exposed to violence in CAR, bringing them out of the country by plane and convoys escorted by its army. The central government went to great lengths to identify the evacuees’ home towns and villages. However, many have only Central African identity papers and no longer have any family ties to Chad, or relatives who can help them.
“The evacuation carried out by the Chadian government saved many lives,” Chateau says. “Everyone who reached Chad – regardless of the form of transport or ability to present identification – exercised their fundamental right to flee the violence and abuses in CAR. All these people, most of whom are from CAR, are doubly vulnerable. They must be aided immediately on Chadian territory.”
In Cameroon where other MSF teams are present, CAR refugees are also in a situation of distress.
In mid-February, MSF opened a health centre in Sido, Chad and will set up a hospitalisation unit with a therapeutic feeding centre. In Bitoye, MSF teams see approximately 100 patients per week and have vaccinated nearly 7,000 people, refugees and residents, against measles, meningitis and polio. In N’Djamena, where several thousand refugees are still gathered, MSF mobile teams provide medical care at several transit sites. In addition to responding to these emergency needs, MSF operates regular projects in Abéché, Am Timan, Massakory, Moissala and Tissi.