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Alarming Health Crisis Hits Sudanese Refugees in Chad

  • May 17, 2004

Stamford, CT, May 17 2004 – Sudanese refugees seeking safety in northeastern Chad from the brutal conflict in Darfur, Sudan, are now facing a grave health crisis. Severe cases of malnutrition and diarrhea are on the rise and have started claiming the lives of the most vulnerable.

“The health situation is critical,” says Dr. Camilo Valderrama, who has been heading the IRC’s emergency health programs in the border towns of Bahai and Cariari since February. “The refugees live without adequate shelter in the harsh desert climate. There are shortages of food, clean water, health services and essential drugs. As a result, there has been an alarming increase in cases of diarrhea, malnutrition and dehydration, and when immune systems are already weak, these conditions are dangerous and sometimes deadly.”

Responding to the critical needs of the refugees and their host communities, the IRC and AmeriCares have joined forces to ensure that critical medical supplies are reaching those in need in this overlooked region.

AmeriCares has airlifted the first of two large shipments of emergency medical supplies to Chad to support the IRC’s medical assistance program. Celina de Sola, Director of Emergency Response at AmeriCares, says the first shipment, which arrived in Chad on May 15th, provides essential drugs and equipment to meet the health needs of 20,000 refugees for three months. She says the second shipment will include urgently needed supplies that address diarrhea, dehydration and respiratory diseases, including antibiotics, rehydration solution and water purification packets. Supplies will also be provided to support existing government-run health centers along the Chad-Sudan border.

“We chose supplies that will have the strongest impact on the health of the refugees and their host communities,” says de Sola. “It was also important to preposition stocks of essentials drugs before the rains render the area inaccessible in a month.”

The IRC is the only organization providing humanitarian services to refugees in the Bahai -Cariari area, where more than 20 percent of all refugees in Chad have settled. The influx has tripled the population of this desolate area, stretching the resources of the already impoverished communities. Working with nurses, community health workers, and midwives from the refugee population, the IRC has set up health posts, runs regular mobile health clinics, and organized a referral system to provide basic curative and preventative services to the refugees. The IRC is also digging new wells, rehabilitating existing ones and improving sanitation.

Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee is a global leader in relief, rehabilitation, protection, post-conflict development and resettlement services for refugees and others uprooted or affected by violent conflict. For more information about the IRC’s work in eastern Chad, North Darfur, Sudan, or 24 other countries where the agency provides humanitarian assistance, visit or call 212-551-0972.