During the past weekend, two health facilities of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Adé and Goz Beïda in eastern Chad were robbed by armed men. MSF teams have been evacuated and the project activities in these locations have been suspended indefinitely, leaving 70,000 people without access to life saving health services.
The weekend incidents, with additional armed robberies on two other NGOs and a vehicle hijack of a UN car, mark a peak in the number of attacks against humanitarian organizations over the last six months and MSF will review how it will be possible to return to full operations in eastern Chad.
"The fact that MSF is being attacked on a regular basis threatens our and other aid agencies' capacity to provide assistance to populations in eastern Chad," said Karline Kleijer, Head of Mission for MSF in Chad. "It is with significant alarm and regret that we have now pulled out of two locations in eastern Chad, leaving 70,000 Chadians without adequate health care. Ultimately, it is the sick and vulnerable that suffer the most."
In the east of Chad, MSF teams assist more than 250,000 internally displaced people, refugees from Darfur and the local population, providing primary and secondary health care, drinking water, food, and relief items.
The latest attacks have followed a series of armed attacks against humanitarian organizations in the past months. In the past 10 months, there have been 24 serious incidents involving MSF, leading to the temporary suspension of activities and regular evacuations of MSF staff. This time, neither patients nor staff members were hurt but past attacks on humanitarian workers have resulted in serious injuries and deaths. In most of the incidents, robbers have stolen cash for staff salaries, vehicles and satellite phones.
MSF has been working in Chad since 1981 and responded to the consequences of violence, lack of health care and regular epidemical outbreaks. Currently there are about 85 international and 1200 Chadian staff members in the country. In eastern Chad, MSF is presently giving medical assistance to the Chadian population, resident and displaced, in Adré, Guereda, Abéché, Adé, Kerfi, Goz Beïda, and Iriba as well as to refugees having fled the neighboring Sudanese region of Darfur.