An IRC emergency response team has been
deployed in Chad to assess the condition of refugees from Sudan's western
Darfur region. A second team is en route to Darfur itself, where the UN
refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that 600,000 Sudanese have been displaced.
The Darfur team includes IRC emergency response director Gerald Martone, emergency logistics coordinator Alan Manski, health coordinator Roberta Gately, and environmental health coordinator David Johnson. Manski is arranging deployment of the IRC emergency stockpile of water equipment from Nairobi. Only 15 percent of Darfur is currently accessible to humanitarian agencies due to restrictions by the Sudan government and newly-laid landmines on access routes.
In Chad, some 115,000 Sudanese refugees are subsisting along more than 300 miles of the country's remote eastern frontier, having fled the ongoing fighting between government forces and various militia groups in western Sudan, which is claiming an estimated 1,000 victims per week. The UN reports that Arab militias are also crossing into Chad and attacking refugees.
The IRC currently has three staff members currently in Chad -- emergency health coordinator Camilo Valderamma, youth program adviser Jane Lowicki and environmental health coordinator Jack Brooks. They will be joined shortly by emergency coordinator Gillian Dunn, and protection officer Joseph Aguettant. The IRC team in Chad will be based in Abeche, a town approximately 90 miles from the Sudan border where refugee agencies are staging relief efforts.
IRC assessments have determined that water is a priority in the border camps, which have a capacity of 6,000 people each but that now accommodate many more. Valderrama, who has toured refugee camps and met Chadian government, UN and international aid organizations, reports that the needs for water source development in the relocated camps is a priority. He also reported concern about undernourishment, and said the Chad health ministry is alarmed about outbreaks of disease that predictably happen this time of year.
"It is not uncommon to see outbreaks of meningitis among crowded and marginalized populations in Chad around this time," Valderrama said. "Moreover, as the rains start in May, cholera traditionally becomes a problem. As the rains subside, malaria outbreaks plague Chad."