IRC Emergency Teams Assess Unmet Needs in Chad and Sudan
An IRC emergency response team in eastern Chad is assessing the humanitarian needs of tens of thousands of refugees who have fled an escalation of violence between militias and opposition rebels in Sudan’s western Darfur region. A second team has been dispatched to Darfur itself, where an estimated 600,000 Sudanese have been displaced by the unrest.
“The intractable fighting in the Darfur region is causing immense human suffering and putting the ongoing peace process at risk,” says John Keys, head of the IRC’s international aid programs.
Mission to Chad
IRC health, water, sanitation and protection experts are traveling to remote desert villages along the northern border of eastern Chad where thousands of Sudanese refugees have settled.
The IRC's Jane Lowicki discusses protection concerns with refugee women (Photo: Jack Brooks/IRC)
Child protection specialist Jane Lowicki says refugees interviewed by the IRC team all described similar horrors that forced them to flee. “They all spoke of terrifying aerial bombardments, as well as pro-government militias called the Djanjawid who are raiding villages and killing civilians, abducting children and adults, raping women and girls, burning huts and farmland, and looting and killing livestock.”
The settlements and villages along this desolate frontier have little means to assist the new arrivals. The UN has not established camps in this border area and as a result, the refugees have received next to no international aid.
“These people are hungry and have little access to food,” says Lowicki. “Many are having to travel long distances to find water. They are also sleeping outside with no blankets, in spite of freezing temperatures at night.”
Lowicki also encountered dozens of separated children and orphans from Darfur who are currently being cared for by other refugees. "We’re very concerned about their welfare,” she says. “With already scant resources wearing thin, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for refugee families to foster separated children. And there's no coordinated international effort underway to reunite the children with their families.”
As the rainy season nears, the IRC is also gravely concerned about epidemics. “It is not uncommon to see outbreaks of meningitis among crowded and marginalized populations in Chad around this time,” says emergency health coordinator, Camilo Valderrama. “As the rains start in May, cholera and malaria are likely to become serious problems.”
Health coordinator Camilo Valderamma tests malnutrition levels of refugee children (Photo: Jack Brooks/IRC)
The IRC is planning emergency interventions for isolated settlements in the northern part of Eastern Chad. Priority will be given to improving water access and the quality of existing water supplies, constructing emergency sanitation, supplying the local hospital and area clinics with drugs, vaccines, rudimentary equipment and emergency preparedness training, and providing protection activities for refugees, including separated children.
Mission to Darfur, Sudan
The IRC’s extensive humanitarian aid program in Sudan is expanding to include the western Darfur region.
In coordination with other aid organizations investigating conditions in the area, the IRC’s emergency team will focus on the state of North Darfur and will base operations out of the capital city Al Fasher. The IRC expects to focus on emergency sanitation in displaced person settlements, providing access to clean water and distributing basic shelter materials, including insecticide-treated plastic sheeting.
However, access to the region’s displaced populations and war-affected communities is severely restricted, creating an enormous obstacle to providing humanitarian aid in the region. As a result, says Gerald Martone, who is leading the emergency mission to Darfur, “the survival needs of the displaced are beyond the modest humanitarian effort currently underway in the region.”
Martone and several other emergency team members are traveling to Al Fasher today to begin an initial assessment.