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Sudanese refugees in Chad scramble to survive

A team from NPR's <em>Morning Edition</em> visited makeshift refugee homes in Camp Adré, Chad, near the border with Sudan.
HJ Mai
/
NPR
A team from NPR's Morning Edition visited makeshift refugee homes in Camp Adré, Chad, near the border with Sudan.

ADRE , Chad — The roads are unpaved. Children are playing with old tires. And adults are trying to figure out what's next. A refugee settlement in Chad, near the country's border with Sudan, is a clear sign of a growing humanitarian crisis that is affecting the region.

At least 1 million people have fled Sudan after a new conflict broke out between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces earlier this year. At least 400,000 of them have ended up in Chad – with many of them located in the town of Adré.

"Today, I saw people on the brink of death — including young children," said U.S. UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield during a visit to the encampment on Wednesday. An NPR Morning Edition team embedded with the ambassador on this trip to observe the situation and new refugees arriving in Adré. As the fighting continues in western Sudan, people don't have many other viable options.

"I watched dozens of displaced persons from Sudan stream across the border into Chad," Thomas-Greenfield said. "Women with nothing but babies on their backs."

The refugee camp in the Chad town of Adré covers hundreds of yards filled with small dwellings and huts.
HJ Mai / NPR
/
NPR
The refugee camp in the Chad town of Adré covers hundreds of yards filled with small dwellings and huts.

But they are the lucky ones who've made it out alive.

Once they arrive in Chad, though, they face new challenges. Shelter, water and food are hard to come by.

Over the months, Adré has turned into an endless sprawl of small little dwellings and huts, some more sophisticated than others. It's not uncommon to see twigs or other small branches holding a particular setup together.

Covering several hundred yards, the Adré camp is football field after football field of refugees.

"We canot ever get blunted or fatigued about other people's misery," Thomas-Greenfield told NPR's Michel Martin during an sit-down interview for Morning Edition in Chad. "We have to engage. We have to find a way to address these situations."

As a UN Security Council briefing last month showed, women have also suffered sexual violence during the conflict.

"The United States strongly condemns pervasive conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Sudan, which credible sources including victims have attributed to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their allied militias" State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a press release.

"The numerous reports of rape, gang rape, and other forms of gender-based violence against women and girls in West Darfur and other areas are deeply disturbing. These acts of brutality contribute to an emerging pattern of targeted ethnic violence."

These are not the only issues that volunteers and others in the camp have to contend with. They must face everything from racial tensions to medical problems and food shortages.

A trip inside a makeshift medical center showed malnourished children, some of them so weak they couldn't even cry or scream.

U.S. UN Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield hopes that media coverage of the dire situation within the refugee camp, which is expected to grow before the end of the year, will increase awareness of the crisis and potentially lead to additional humanitarian assistance.

But there's a risk. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blicken's visit to Kyiv on the same day that Thomas-Greenfield met with refugees illustrates that there are numerous conflicts of global scale. And this large amount of conflicts makes it even more difficult for governments to decide which humanitarian crisis takes priority and should be supported with taxpayer dollars.

The broadcast interview was produced by Milton Guevara.
The digital version was edited by Treye Green.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.