Sudan: child refugees in Chad, the direct victims of the conflict

Sudanese refugees continue to flood into Chad following the conflict that rages in their country, particularly in West Darfur. Among them are infants, children and adolescents who are vulnerable and, in some cases, severely injured. The pediatric ward at the MSF-supported hospital in Adré has remained constantly full, while around sixty children were treated in the surgical unit between 15 and 21 June.

Camp for new sudanese refugees in Marjan school. ©Mohammad Ghannam

Around 180 children are currently being treated in the pediatric and nutritional units of the Adré hospital. The arrival of thousands of refugee children from El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, has further increased the need for pediatric care, in a context where the agricultural hunger gap and the rainy season have led to extremely high levels of malnutrition and malaria among the youngest children. “There are at least two children per bed in the pediatric ward. We plan to rapidly increase the capacity by opening 50 additional beds in tents,” explains Raphael Kananga, project coordinator in Adré.

MSF medical staff are seeing fever, acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, malnutrition and cases of malaria among the youngest patients.

“Oula, my 7-month-old daughter, has diarrhea. She doesn’t eat and cries all the time,” explains Nasra, her mother, who is also ill. They both endured traumatic events and deprivation as they fled to Chad. While watching over Oula in her hospital bed, Nasra tells us she had no intention of leaving Sudan and her town of El-Geneina initially, which is once again plagued by violence after the conflict outbreak between the Sudanese armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan in mid-April. However, as the attacks intensified, she was forced to move to another neighborhood with her infant son and eldest daughter, aged 7, as well as her mother and four of her sisters. They took refuge in a group shelter where they stayed for 40 days before a militia attacked them, leaving them with only two options: either leave for Chad or die.

We fled in large groups and we saw a lot of dead people on the road. I can't forget this scene of a mother with two children, they were all dead and piled on top of each other.

She explains that her group was stopped by militiamen before arriving in Adré, near the town of Al Furqan: “They arrested us, beat us up and humiliated us”. Nasra has found safety and care at the hospital in Adré, and is now reassured about Oula’s state of health. The doctors have confirmed that she should be better within a week.

Nasra was forced to leave El-Geneina with her two daughters, her mother and seven of her sisters. On her way to Chad, her group was arrested, beaten and humiliated. Oula, her 7 months old baby, stopped eating and is permanently crying. ©Mohammad Ghannam

Eman, 11 months old, also showed symptoms of fever and malnutrition, and was treated at the Adré pediatric hospital. Hawaya explains her reasons for fleeing: “My husband and I have 6 children, so at first we tried to survive and adapt to the security situation by moving around the town of El-Geneina. Last week, my husband went out and we never saw him again. I no longer had anyone to protect and support us. Two days after his disappearance, I decided to leave for Chad with my children”.

Sudanese refugees arriving at the Adré hospital. ©Mohammad Ghannam

A number of cases of children arriving with no relatives have also been reported to our teams. They include 5-year-old Muhammad and his very young sister, only 6 months old.

They [5-year-old Muhammad and his 6-month-old sister] arrived alone at the hospital in Adré after their mother was killed inside their home in El-Geneina. The young boy carried his sister and followed the people fleeing the town until he reached the hospital. They are now being cared for and we are providing them with everything they need in terms of medical care, as well as food and support. Another child, also quite young, arrived at the hospital completely lost, having been separated from his mother and father in the chaos. He was following other people who were fleeing.
Dr. Hussein Ahmad Mohamed
Head of the Emergency Room

There are also children and adolescents who have been seriously injured – they are cared for in the tents that MSF staff have set up to house a surgical unit. Such is the case of 15-year-old Ahmad, who suffered serious burns. His neighborhood in El-Geneina was attacked two weeks ago and the shots fired towards his house hit the petrol generator located just behind his bedroom.

A bullet hit the fuel and the generator exploded. I was burnt, started screaming and jumped into the water tank. My mother and one of my brothers took me to a clinic, but the doctors told them that I needed treatment that they were unable to provide in El-Geneina. My mother hired a car and I arrived at the hospital in Adré two days ago.
Dr. Hussein Ahmad Mohamed
Head of the Emergency Room

Outside the hospital, children and adolescents make up a large proportion of the 15,000 refugees who have recently settled in the town of Adré, particularly around the Marjan high school.

The refugees at the school site come from El-Geneina and the surrounding area. Most of them have walked the 35 km that separated them from Adré. They are very vulnerable and weakened. Their living conditions have completely deteriorated from both a health and humanitarian point of view. We've also had reports of measles among the younger people.
Abderahman Ibet
MSF Assistant Head of Mission

MSF teams are currently planning a measles vaccination campaign, vitamin A supplementation and deworming for the children on the site. 

Camp for new sudanese refugees in Marjan school. ©Mohammad Ghannam
New patients at Adré hospital. ©Mohammad Ghannam

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