World News

Doctors warn of deepening crisis in Chad

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A leading medical charity warned on Friday that 150,000 Chadian civilians forced from their homes by violence spilling over from neighboring Darfur face a deepening humanitarian crisis.

While world attention is focused on Darfur in Sudan, where international experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million made homeless since 2003, Medicins Sans Frontieres warned of looming problems in Chad.

It said malaria and diarrheal diseases were on the rise and malnutrition could increase significantly as the rainy season starts at the end of this month. The group said 150,000 people were now internally displaced within Chad.

“Given the anticipated deterioration of the situation, it is urgent, in order to avoid a catastrophe, to increase hospitalization capacity, improve the water supply, and respond to the nutritional problems,” MSF said in a statement.

Non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur four years ago, accusing the government in Khartoum of not heeding their plight. Khartoum then armed some Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, who have raped, killed and pillaged.

The Sudanese government rejects international charges of genocide and says only around 9,000 people have been killed.

The conflict has increasingly spilled west into Chad and Central African Republic. Chad’s government has been battling an eastern rebellion by insurgents it says have been backed in the past by Sudan.

Earlier this week, Chad rebuffed a proposal by France to set up a humanitarian corridor through its territory to channel aid to Darfur, saying it did not see the need for such a strategy.

Chad has said it wants a U.N. police force, not a big military contingent, in its violent east, where U.N. agencies are looking after 234,000 Sudanese refugees and many Chadian civilians who have fled attacks by armed groups.

MSF said not enough was being done to stem the crisis in Chad and it was confronting numerous obstacles to increasing its activities there. For example, it was being refused authorization to open a pediatric hospital in Goz Beida, despite growing malnutrition among children.

“It is imperative that the emergency in eastern Chad be fully recognized, that aid organizations provide massive, immediate aid to the IDPs (internally displaced persons), and that the Chadian authorities facilitate humanitarian aid,” said Isabelle Defourny, head of MSF programs in Chad.