1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Sudanese war refugees in Chad face further hardship

Blaise Dariustone | Mimi Mefo Takambou
July 9, 2024

Thousands of people fleeing war in Sudan are facing new crises in neighboring Chad. Amid hunger, illness, abuse, and soaring food prices, aid groups are feeling overwhelmed.

Scores of tents in Beida with war refugees in the foreground
Refugee camps in Chad are growing by the dayImage: Marie-Helena Laurent/WFP/AP/picture alliance

In the eastern Chadian town of Adre, refugees continue to pour in, coming on horseback, with donkeys or — in most cases — on foot, recounting harrowing tales of survival.

Located on the border between Chad and Sudan, Adre is at the forefront of an unfolding crisis, as thousands of Sudanese war refugees report how they are grappling with severe hardship after escaping the devastating conflict in their homeland.

For 15 months now, Sudan has been ravaged by a brutal war between General Abdel-Fattah Burhan's official army and his adversary, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and his paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), resulting in a mass exodus of people to neighboring Chad and beyond.

Chad is now home to over a million forcibly displaced individuals in total, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Almost two thirds of them have escaped conflicts in countries neighboring Chad such as the Central African Republic, Cameroon, and — chiefly — Sudan.

Scarce resources for displaced populations

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that in the past three months, approximately 143,000 people have been displaced in Sudan's El Fasher region, which is situated in Northern Darfur, alone.

This is a 15% influx of refugees, which is putting a severe strain on the scarce resources available for taking care of displaced populations.

"We have nothing to eat. We left everything behind. I don't know what I'm going to do here without any means," said Mediha Zenaba Abdoulaye, a refugee from El Fasher, pleading for help.

"I left El Fasher a week ago with my three children. We spent several nights without food along the way. My baby died on the journey. I arrived with the other two, who are now sick," she told DW.

Sudan: UN alarmed at ethnically motivated attacks in Darfur

More refugees expected

In many ways, however, Abdoulaye's journey has only just begun. She and her family are practically at the back of the queue for receiving any attention, as those who arrived months are also still waiting to receive adequate food and shelter.

And each day, there are thousands more joining that queue.

"Every day, we see that 10,000 or more people are being accommodated in this transit center. Assistance is needed, and this challenge is significant," Patrick Youssef, Regional Director for Africa at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told DW.

Humanitarian organizations like the ICRC fear they have to brace for an even larger influx of displaced people arriving in Chad if EL Fasher falls to the RSF. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) meanwhile has sounded the alarm on urgent need for increased emergency food aid in places like Adre.

"If we had the opportunity to provide substantial assistance in Sudan, we wouldn't be in this situation," Youssef added.

Women pictured on the back of a truck as they arrive at a refugee camp in Adre
Women are being abused and raped as the conflict expands beyond SudanImage: ZOHRA BENSEMRA/REUTERS

Children in crisis

Dr Dieudonne Kouamegni is one of many doctors who works with MSF in Adre to help alleviate the pain and suffering. But with cascading reports of severe malnutrition — especially among refugee children — there's only so much that professional aid workers like he can do.

"In the past three months, we have recorded 3,000 emergency patients. Approximately 1,200 people have been hospitalized. Among these, around 45% suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and 32% are pediatric cases," Kouamegni told DW.

Pediatrician Jerome Fritsch doubles down on the need for food aid for children in particular: "We currently have an increase in cases of severe acute malnutrition because we are at the end of the dry season, and all of last year's harvests have been consumed," he told DW.

Yet, there are occasional glimpses of hope amid the growing crisis: Hayat Moustapha, a 22-year-old mother, had to spend three weeks at an MSF center with her severely malnourished seven-month-old daughter, fighting for the child's survival.

"If we hadn't come here, I would have lost my daughter. After three weeks of treatment, she is much better. I really thank the medical staff here," Moustapha explained.

Economic strain felt throughout Chad

The influx of refugees in the country has also meant a strain on Chad's resources. The prices of basic commodities have skyrocketed, making life difficult for both refugee populations and locals.

Mariam Khadidja, a local resident of Adre, expressed her growing frustration while shopping at the local market: "The (price of a) kilo of rice that used to sell for 1,000 CFA francs now sells for 2,500 CFA francs. The liter of oil has gone from 1,000 CFA francs to 2,000 CFA francs. The same goes for meat. How are poor households supposed to live in these conditions?" she told DW.

"It's not fair that we suffer because of the presence of these refugees," she added, stressing that "humanitarian agencies help us, too."

However, part of the reason for these price hikes is the crisis in Sudan itself. Moussa Goudja, who imports food staple,says the war in the neighboring country has severely disrupted supply chains, resulting in increased prices:

"Before, we imported almost everything from neighboring Sudan. But since the outbreak of war there, we no longer have access to Sudan. So we bring our goods from (the capital) N'Djamena or Libya, which are hundreds of kilometers away." Moussa highlighted.

A year of war has left Sudan with a humanitarian crisis

Sexual violence against women: a hidden crisis

Even those who do not go to bed on an empty stomach are now faced with new challenges amid a rise in violence, especially against women, since the start of the conflict and the ensuing crisis.

Sexual assaults on women and girls have become more common as a result of the situation. The UNHCR has reported alarming levels of sexual violence against Sudanese women, emphasizing the urgent need for protection and support.

Many of the war refugees have even suffered multiple layers of victimization in recent months; Bintou, a woman who managed to escape the fighting in El Fasher, shared her heartbreaking story with DW: "My husband was killed in Darfur, so I decided to leave Sudan to find safety with my two children. Unfortunately, we fell into the hands of the military on the way. They forcibly recruited my two children into the army, while I was subjected to repeated gang rapes," she intimated.

"The soldiers beat me every time I tried to resist. I spent five days in their hands before being released. They didn't tell me where my children are," Bintou added.

Bintou is far from being an isolated case; 26-year-old Rakhie from West Darfur, said she endured 10 continuous days of captivity and abuse.

"I cooked for these soldiers, and served as a sexual object all day long. After I arrived here, I found out that I was pregnant. Fortunately, I had a miscarriage. I am shocked by what I experienced and remain traumatized," Rakhie said.

Refugees from Sudan in Chad face desperation

Edited by: Sertan Sanderson