Displaced people forced to flee again in region gripped by sharp rise in violence

What happened in the village of Koloye last week?

On Thursday, some members of our Dogdoré team went to Koloye to provide medical aid to the displaced persons. We have not had a fixed presence at that site since October 25, because we had to evacuate for security reasons. However, a local team continued to manage the drinking water distribution network that we had set up.

Along the road, our team observed that 20 to 30 kilometers before reaching Koloye, the villages had been partially burned and residents had abandoned the sites. As they came closer to Koloye, they saw shoes, teapots and gourds abandoned, hastily, along the side of the road, signaling the populations' flight. When they reached Koloye, they saw that all the tukuls, the dwellings, in the village had been burned. MSF's clinic was looted and we found bloody compresses at the clinic, a sign that people had been wounded in the fighting. The pharmacy was destroyed. The tents and water tanks had disappeared or were destroyed. The drugs and supplies were gone.

They met only two women at the site who had come to collect a few belongings. The 5,000 displaced persons had completely disappeared. That number included 37 members of our local team. We were particularly worried because insecurity was worsening and spreading in the region.

These populations, who had been displaced several months ago and had found tentative refuge in Koloye, had to flee again, driven away by violence. The two women also told us that the assailants had threatened them and that no one - including MSF - was to return to Koloye.

Since that time, we have obtained information about some of the displaced persons and 33 of our employees.

Thirty-three people - members of our team - managed to flee to Adé, Kumu and Dogdoré. One wounded person is currently being treated in Adé and is awaiting evacuation. We still have no information regarding four people out of our 37 employees. In addition, we also learned that a daily worker who had worked with us in Koloye had been killed.

We wanted to get to Adé as quickly as possible, but the growing insecurity in the region prevented us from doing so. Our team in Goz Baïda just managed to get there yesterday to conduct an initial evaluation of the displaced persons' situation.

What did they see in Adé?

Based on what we know at this point, there are 6,000 dispaced persons in Adé, but we cannot say how many have come from Koloye. Apparently, residents of other villages, including Faradjani, Marmadengue and Kerwajb, which were also burned by the attackers, joined the Koloye residents in their flight. They have set up on a huge field with a few trees, behind the market.

The families are gathered by village. They cut the grass and set up shelters with screens and no roofs. Most of them are without blankets or mats. Some have cooking utensils. Few had time to gather any belongings before fleeing.

Ten patients - primarily women and children - were waiting at the health center. We also returned to the clinic we had set up last spring, where there are 12 lightly-wounded patients from the Koloye attack. One requires an emergency transfer. These centers have some supplies - compresses and bandages - but few drugs. We are going to resupply the health center with medicine and ensure that the populations will have access to food.

Do these attacks signal a change in the situation in eastern Chad?

Since December 2005, eastern Chad has been the scene of confrontations between the government army and Chadian rebels. In addition to this violent conflict, armed men have conducted incursions. Many people have been wounded and thousands living in villages close to the border have been forced onto the roads.

Several waves of displaced persons have gathered in the towns in the interior of the country, like Koloye and Dogdoré, where we have been providing medical assistance, drinking water and survival supplies since December. Other MSF teams are also aiding the displaced persons in Borota, Gurgur and, more recently, in Kerfi.

We are currently witnessing an increase in the attacks and looting of villages throughout the Dar Sila department. For example, the displaced persons from Koloye had already been driven from their villages by violence. They had to flee again and are living, once more, in a precarious situation as the violence extends its reach in the region.