Friday, September 1, 2023

“Sudanese Refugees in Chad: Urgent Health Care Needs Unmet”


Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Sudan’s war have sought refuge in Chad, only to find themselves in overcrowded camps with limited access to healthcare. The camps, located in Adre on the border with Sudan’s Darfur region, are struggling to cope with the influx of refugees and are facing shortages of medical personnel, sanitary facilities, and medicine.

The situation in the camps is dire, with refugees like Adam Bakht, an elderly man with multiple ailments including diabetes, asthma, and allergies, receiving only minimal medical attention. Bakht, along with approximately 200,000 other refugees in Adre, is desperately waiting for proper healthcare. The makeshift clinics in the camps are ill-equipped to handle the growing number of patients, with limited space and supplies.

The challenges faced by the clinics are exacerbated by the onset of Chad’s rainy season. The camps, already experiencing shortages of food and water, are now at increased risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera. Malaria cases have also sharply increased due to the rainy season. The lack of proper healthcare facilities and resources puts the refugees at greater risk of contracting these diseases.

Muzammil Said, a refugee himself who now volunteers at one of the clinics, highlights the severity of the situation. The clinics receive up to 300 patients daily, with beds placed directly on the sand due to limited space. The medical team struggles to sterilize equipment and ration the few boxes of medicine they have left from international donations. Providing medicine is a significant challenge due to its high cost.

Bakht’s case is not unique. Many refugees are still waiting for essential medication promised to them since they fled the war in Sudan. However, Chad is one of the world’s least-developed countries, with a crippled healthcare system, particularly in remote areas like Adre. The country already has high rates of maternal and child mortality, and child mortality has further increased within the camps due to malnutrition.

The dire healthcare situation extends beyond Chad’s borders. In Sudan, where the conflict originated, more than 500 children have died from hunger since the war began. The World Food Programme warns that over 20 million people in Sudan face severe hunger. The refugees arriving from Darfur, a region already devastated by poverty and war, have long suffered from a fragile healthcare system. Even before the current conflict, 78,000 children under five died every year in Sudan from preventable causes like malaria.

The risk of disease is further heightened by the lack of clean water in the camps. Shortages of clean water have led to long queues starting as early as 2:00 am. Aid groups, already facing security challenges and bureaucratic hurdles, report that international donors have only provided a quarter of the promised funding, even after four months of the war.

The situation in Chad was already dire before the current conflict in Sudan. The country was hosting tens of thousands of refugees from Cameroon and the Central African Republic. In addition, there were already 410,000 Sudanese refugees who had fled the war in Darfur since 2003. The new conflict has driven an additional 382,000 refugees to Chad, with more expected to cross the border as violence continues in Sudan.

The healthcare crisis in the refugee camps in Chad requires urgent attention and support from the international community. Adequate funding is needed to provide essential medical supplies, increase medical personnel, and improve sanitary facilities. Without immediate intervention, the refugees will continue to suffer from preventable diseases and high mortality rates. It is crucial for international donors to fulfill their promises and for humanitarian organizations to work together to address this humanitarian crisis.

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