Santa Monica, CA, July 5, 2006 -
Twenty people were killed and nine seriously injured following heavy fighting
in Guereda, Chad - a sign of the worsening humanitarian crisis in the region.
International Medical Corps treated patients with bullet and knife wounds,
and offered expertise and support to the staff at Guereda Hospital.
Despite the risks to their safety, and under extremely difficult circumstances, IMC and hospital staff worked all day and into the night to stabilize the injured.
IMC's Dr. Guy Yogo, who led one medical team, said that teamwork was crucial in treating the casualties. "This has once again been proved true after all hospital and IMC staff met this challenging day together."
Gunshots were heard from Guereda at approximately 5:10 a.m. local time. After an initial investigation, it appeared that fighting was underway in Obe village, just over four miles from Guereda, between two ethnic groups, the Tamas and the Gorans. Previous fighting between the two tribes had left several killed and injured.
On the morning of July 4th, Gorans, heavily armed with machine guns and rocket launchers, surrounded the Tamas village of Obe and started shelling. The skirmish reportedly lasted for four hours. IMC suspended normal activities in the camps, allowing its staff to focus on the wounded. Creating three shifts for a 24-hour period, IMC and Guereda Hospital staff cared for the injured. Five of the more serious cases were flown to the hospital in Abeche.
Equipment donated by the Gates Foundation for Guereda Hospital was used during this rapid response incident, and UNHCR provided back-up support and assisted with the air evacuation of critical patients to Abeche Hospital.
IMC is keeping its team on alert for the coming night, as some of the wounded might be afraid to travel to the hospital during daylight hours. There are rumors that retaliation strikes may take place.
IMC staff in Guereda say the situation between the Tamas and Gorans tribes - as well as between the Tamas and Zagawas tribes - is deteriorating. Open conflict among these groups threatens to destabilize ethnically diverse institutions, such as the police.
IMC began providing services to Sudanese refugees and local Chadian communities in Chad in 2004, shortly after intense fighting forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the Darfur region of Sudan and cross the border into Chad. In 2005, IMC managed new and existing health care and nutrition programs for approximately 44,000 Sudanese refugees in camps in eastern Chad, as well as for the area's host population.
International Medical Corps is a global humanitarian non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs. Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, IMC is a private, voluntary, apolitical, non-sectarian organization. Its mission is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in areas worldwide. By offering training and health care to local populations and medical assistance to people at highest risk, and with the flexibility to respond rapidly to emergency situations, IMC rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance.