Over the past few weeks thousands of people from Cameroon have crossed the Logone and Chari rivers to find refuge in Chad due to ongoing violence. There are now around 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom are women and children, living in around 20 informal sites. We are mobilising teams in response, to provide care for people in need.
“The first inter-communal conflicts between Mousgoum fishermen and Arab herders in Cameroon began in August this year,” says Jessie Gaffric, MSF head of mission in Chad. “For a few weeks, we organised mobile clinics to provide basic healthcare to 11,000 refugees in Chad, before the situation calmed down.”
However the violence resumed suddenly and brutally, as it did on 8 December in Kousseri, a Cameroonian town on the border with Chad’s capital N'Djamena due to tensions over agricultural, pastoral and fisheries resources, which have not been resolved.
Forty-three people were injured by knives, bullets or arrows. Twenty-five of them had to be hospitalised in N'Djamena because of the lack of appropriate care in Kousseri.
According to the latest information from the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 100,000 people have found refuge in Chad, spread over some 50 kilometres along the rivers. We know from the first testimonies collected, some villages have been burnt in Cameroon, forcing people to flee. While the majority of men stay behind to protect their livestock or crops, women cross the river with their children and settle wherever they can.
“We were surprised by the scale of the displacement,” says Guillemette Thomas, MSF medical coordinator. “Some of the people are housed directly in the villages, but the majority find refuge under trees, without any shelter.
“Some sites are hosting up to 10,000 refugees who are completely destitute, without access to basic resources. Other actors and public authorities have also mobilised teams but the needs are immense.”
Our teams intervened at the Ngueli site, south of N'Djamena, and are providing care to the many pregnant women who have migrated. Since the launch of activities on 16 December, we have carried out around 100 consultations each day.
Further south in the Mandalia area, about 50 kilometres away, a mobile clinic has been deployed in the villages of Malfana and Ambague, and a fixed consultation centre has been set up in Djazira, where there are currently about 10,000 people. The majority of the diseases treated are related to poor hygiene conditions. A significant number of cases of malaria, endemic in the region, are also treated, mostly in children under five.
“The majority of our patients are afraid to return home,” says Guillemette Thomas. “While waiting for the establishment of more permanent reception structures where these people can access basic services, we will continue activities and continue to explore the area to ensure that people are not forgotten.”