MSF starts emergency medical response for refugees fleeing bombing raids in Sudan
2 December 2011 – Thousands of refugees have crossed the border from Sudan into the newly independent South Sudan. Refugees arriving in the village of Doro, some 40 km from the border with Sudan, have told staff from Médecins Sans Frontières MSF (Doctors Without Borders) that they fled bombing in and around their villages in Blue Nile State.
“War was coming – we saw the aeroplanes. They bombed our village,” said a 50-year-old man in Doro. “We have been on the road for eight days. There were long lines of people walking with us. We arrived three days ago, and we have spent a few days without food.”
An MSF emergency team is providing medical care to the refugees in Doro. An estimated 13,000 men, women and children have already arrived, and the team has seen thousands more walking from the border area towards Doro with what few possessions they can carry.
“We think there are around 8,000 refugees on the move,” says Dr Asaad Kadhum, who is coordinating MSF’s emergency team in Doro. “They are exhausted and they are terrified. You can see the fear in their eyes.”
“The place where they are gathering is not a refugee camp yet,” says Jean-Marc Jacobs, MSF’s deputy head of mission in South Sudan. “But the scrubland is filling up with refugees, and the queue of new arrivals registering keeps getting longer. The sheer numbers are overwhelming the capacity of the local health clinic.”
MSF managed to get the first supplies of drugs and medical equipment to Doro on 27 November, and the next day a team of three medics started providing medical treatment for the refugees.
“For now we are concentrating on the most critically ill,” says Dr Kadhum. “Severe cases of malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory diseases are our priority.”
“We expect to see around 120 patients a day in our fixed clinic. We will need to start up a mobile clinic team as soon as possible to reach all those that need medical care.”
Over the coming days, the MSF team will start a therapeutic feeding programme to treat the children under five affected by severe malnutrition.
Vaccinations will be essential to prevent outbreaks of disease, and MSF staff predict that there will be a critical need for antenatal and maternal healthcare, as there are large numbers of pregnant women who will be giving birth in extremely difficult conditions.
Healthcare is not the only critical requirement. There are just two boreholes in the area and people are queuing for up to five hours to get water. So far, there is not a single latrine, and it is unclear how people are going to get enough food.
“In a situation like this, drinking water, sanitation and healthcare cannot be dissociated,” says Dr Kadhum. “Our water and sanitation expert is evaluating what we most urgently need to put in place.”
With many more refugees expected to arrive, increased medical and material assistance will be urgently needed in the coming weeks.