Chad: taking care of the wounded and putting families back in touch
14-02-2008 Operational Update
With relative calm now prevailing in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena, the ICRC and Red Cross of Chad continue to care for the wounded, bury the dead and attend to the needs of the displaced. The following is a report of ICRC activities over the past week, 7-14 February.
Relative calm has set in following the fighting that pitted armed opposition groups against the Chadian National Army. While N'Djamena residents who had taken refuge on the outskirts of the town as well as a significant number of those who crossed the border into Cameroon are slowly returning to N'Djamena, the ICRC and the Red Cross of Chad maintain their presence in the health structures of the town where the wounded are being taken care of.
Red Cross activities in N'Djamena
The ICRC reinforced its medical team with the arrival of a second surgical team and continued its support to the'' La Liberté'' hospital where the first surgical team had been deployed.
Assisted by the Red Cross of Chad and the Swiss and Luxemburg sections of Médecins Sans Frontières, ICRC medical teams provided care to more than 950 wounded, civilians and combatants from both sides.
Over the week that followed the combats, the Red Cross of Chad evacuated a total of 200 war wounded to diverse hospitals in the town and collected 145 dead bodies and proceeded to bury them. Where possible, measures were taken to identify the bodies and collect information for the families of the deceased.
Situation of civilians living in N'Djamena
The ICRC and the Red Cross of Chad carried out an assessment of the needs of civilians living in N'Djamena. Despite the fierceness of the fighting, material damage is limited and concerns a few identified areas such as the southern part of the town, the area around the national radio station and the mosque. Shops and markets have re-opened and people are able to purchase basic goods, as their prices, which had spiked shortly after the battle, regained their normal level.
A certain number of opposition members have been detained. The ICRC remains in contact with the Chadian authorities, in order to register people who have been arrested and monitor their conditions of detention and treatment. In accordance with standard ICRC practice, all dialogue between the ICRC and the detaining authorities remains bilateral and confidential.
Restoring family links
Many families were separated in the confusion of fleeing the fighting. Additionally, many people living outside Chad have lost contact with their families inside the country.
On 12 February, the ICRC and the Red Cross of Chad launched a service enabling the population in N'Djamena to call relatives abroad who had been unable to obtain news of their loved ones living in Chad. This service will remain in operation until phone connections are restored. So far, around 100 families were able to call relatives in over 20 countries to exchange much needed news and ease the anguish of relatives who had had no direct news from their loved ones.
The ICRC, the Red Cross of Chad and the Red Cross of Cameroon are working on systems enabling civilians who crossed over in Cameroon, as well as Chadians in other regions of the country, to locate their relatives and restore or maintain contacts with them.
While the ICRC and Red Cross teams are addressing the needs emerging from the armed confrontation of last weekend, other ICRC teams continue their work in other parts of the country, particularly in Eastern Chad.
The offensive on the capital city affected the security situation in the whole country and caused a reduction of activities after most humanitarian actors pulled out or limited their movement in Eastern Chad where more than 400,000 refugees and displaced persons depend in large part on humanitarian aid for survival.
Following the attack on the town of Seleia in West Darfur, in which an ICRC staff member was killed, it is estimated that between 10 and 15,000 people, mainly women and young children, crossed over to the town of Birak and the surrounding area. In coordination with other humanitarian actors, ICRC teams present organized emergency assistance for the refugees, to ensure basic needs were covered until more permanent settlement structures and assistance can be put in place. The ICRC helped organize the transfer of the wounded to medical structures.