Fleeing Libya: How the IRC helped Chadian migrant workers
February 15, 2012 by Sophia Jones-Mwangi
|Three-year-old Issa’s family arrived In the Faya transit camp on June 3, 2011 after a perilous four-week journey from Libya. Throughout the ordeal, the little boy clutched his cherished cuddly toy. After arriving in Faya, Issa was treated by IRC staff at the hospital and vaccinated against measles. Photo: Pasteur Ruberintwari/IRC|
“I have drunk hardly any water for two weeks, but I’m safe and that’s what matters”
— Chadian refugee on his arrival in Chad from Libya.
Over 80,000 Chadians who had been working in Libya returned to Chad during 2011 in the wake of violence that erupted in the North African country a year ago. More than 20,000 arrived back home weak and sick after a 500-kilometer journey (more than 300 miles) across the desert under harsh conditions. The International Rescue Committee began its emergency medical program to assist them last May.
Sylvain Topan is the IRC’s field coordinator in Faya, a small oasis in Chad, and recalls the early days of the response, “I remember when I first met the migrants. I was shocked, as they were in very bad shape after travelling for weeks on top of trucks across the desert,” he says.
One particular refugee stands out in Sylvain’s memory. “His name was Mahamat Ibrahim. He told me, ‘I’m exhausted, I’m ill, it might be measles. I have drunk hardly any water for two weeks, but I’m safe now and that is what matters.’ I was happy to take Mahamat to the IRC doctor for a medical checkup, but also angry at how crazy our world can be.”
Almost one year later, thankfully, the situation in Chad is almost back to normal. “The IRC has made the decision to end its local support,” says Sylvain, “and hand over the health support services to the local medical authorities, together with a donation of drugs for them to continue the work.”
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