N’Djamena (Fides News Agency) - "Although in Europe they don't discuss it much, since April 15, 2023, Sudan has been experiencing a dramatic armed conflict between rivaling factions, headed by two generals that for years have been competing for power. This fratricidal war is causing, throughout the whole country, the population to flee to neighboring countries, particularly to Chad. Currently, over 30,000 people from Sudanese Darfur have already found shelter in the nearby provinces of Chad. The influx of refugees continues at a rhythm of roughly 5,000 individuals a week, and shows no sign of stopping in upcoming months, at least not until combat definitively ends. Moreover, prospects of a return to peace are presently very distant and precarious". This was the content of the appeal of the Vicariate of Mongo, in Chad, signed by Fr. Fabio Mussi, the coordinator of the project launched by the diocese to come to the aid of the thousands of refugees coming from Sudan, a country swept up, at that point, in a month of horrific fighting. Four months have now gone by since the war began, and the situation has further deteriorated. The population's exodus is hitting biblical proportions. According to the latest statistics, over 3 million people are on the run, with nearly a million reaching neighboring countries, likewise burdened by humanitarian crises and displaced individuals in very high numbers. Among these, the country with the highest number of recorded entries is undoubtedly Chad which went from those 30,000 desperate Sudanese fugitives Fr. Fabio spoke of in May, to roughly 310 thousand today (source African Center for Strategic Studies). Four months have now gone by since the war began, and the situation has further deteriorated. The population's exodus is hitting biblical proportions. According to the latest statistics, over 3 million people are on the run, with nearly a million reaching neighboring countries, themselves burdened by humanitarian crises and displaced individuals in very high numbers. Among these, the country with the highest number of recorder entries is undoubtedly Chad which went from those 30,000 desperate Sudanese Fr. Fabio spoke of in May, to roughly 310 thousand today (source African Center for Strategic Studies).
"Besides internal displacement - Fides News Agency was told from N’Djamena by Sabrina Atturo, international aid worker for the MAGIS foundation - the Jesuit NGO - the conflict in Sudan has caused the mixed cross-border movement of thousands of people in nearby countries, that is Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Most arrivals are recorded here, in Chad (36.5%), followed by Egypt (30.3%) and South Sudan (22.5%). The eastern provinces, very close to the Sudan border, are evidently the most crowded with refugees. The population of Adré, for instance, barely 400 meters from the border in the eastern province of Ouaddai - once a quiet little town counting 68,000 inhabitants - has currently more than doubled, tens of thousands of people of all ages have been coming from Sudan since mid-June, when a fresh outbreak of violence erupted in El Geneina, the primary city in western Darfur. We also mustn't forget that the current surge of refugees from Sudan is compounding the over 400,000 Sudanese refugees who have been living in eastern Chad since 2003, on account of previous conflicts, again in Darfur".
On top of the so-far failed attempts on part of the USA, Saudi Arabia and Gedda to stop the uncontrolled fighting, a meeting in Addis Ababa over the past few weeks, coordinated by the President of Kenya William Ruto, which also involved those representatives of civil society that expressed their favor at the inclusion of the Igad (The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a political-commercial body founded by countries in the Horn of Africa region, Ed), and of transnational organs to end the clashes and enter into negotiations. In the meantime, on the field, many organs are trying to provide the fleeing population with concrete efforts. "There are many - Atturo continues - organs in Chad that are trying to respond in a coordinated manner to the needs of the displaced. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is providing a multi-sector response, providing assistance through money, food and tents, as well as tanks for drinking water for tens of thousands of people. The World Food Program (WFP) is providing food assistance for 22,000 in the four areas of Adré, Ben Wadienne, Toumtouma and Tchoukia in the province of Ouaddaï”.
Besides transnational organizations, there are smaller entities - of various origin - operating. However, despite strong coordination in response to the crisis, great difficulties still remain in providing assistance. The biggest one is the problem of road transport on account of the imminent rain season that also brings about unsanitary conditions for the populace. Meanwhile, prices are soaring. "As the crisis in Sudan continues to develop - the aid worker goes on - local communities in eastern Chad are facing soaring prices of foodstuffs on account of the market disruptions stemming from the war and the closing of borders. Elevated inflation in the marketplaces of Adré, for instance, is creating huge problems for suppliers and customers alike. This is exacerbated by the population's already low salaries, and by the pressure on local families' means of sustenance due to the flow of refugees and repatriates".
Such a sudden and hefty influx is seriously testing the coexistence and lifestyle typical of frontier areas, traditionally peaceful till now.
"For generations, communities along the Sudan-Chad border have kept traditions of commerce and sheep-rearing, bound with mixed marriages and common cultural affinities. Faced with a fresh crisis in Sudan, many Chadians warmly opened up their homes, sharing their food, land and other resources with those fleeing the armed conflict.
However, the abrupt arrival of thousands of people has put much pressure on a local population that is already very vulnerable in eastern Chad, and this could lead to conflict and clashes amid the frontier population themselves. I was very touched by the story of Khadidja, a 40-year-old woman mother to eight children who has always lived in Adré and who, pointing at the measly meal she had prepared for her family, said: "Everything has become so costly and arduous" while her eldest daughter, Hila, barely 20 years old, admits to feeling the pain of those escaping war. Her very family took in two Sudanese teenagers fleeing El Geneina: 'But when you're hungry, it's difficult to hear others scream'".
Many challenges face a country towards the very bottom of the Humanitarian Development Index: lack of infrastructures, political uncertainty, structural weakness in the areas of healthcare and education, in addition to the difficulty of the climatic context with the advancing desert. "Here - Sabrina concludes - seasons of intense heat alternate with others in which massive floods meet a lack of water management capacity. In the complex context of this country, MAGIS implements holistic human development projects in the area of agriculture and above all healthcare, with the reinforcement of facilities and personnel training" (LA) (Fides News Agency 12/8/2023)