For several weeks, gunshot victims fleeing Sudan have been streaming into Abéché in eastern Chad. Our teams there have heard accounts from some of the victims, who have described the intensity of the fighting. Thousands of families are fleeing armed clashes any way they can amid the chaos. A number of people, now being cared for in Chad, have told how they were shot at as they tried to escape and had their belongings stolen. There are also tensions between those who have been displaced and the local communities they flee to.
Idriss Yaya Annour Ahmat was shot in the leg by a lone sniper and sought refuge in a village near El Geneina. “I’d only just got there when the residents told me that I wasn’t welcome. I told them that my leg was broken. They got me back on my feet and let me fall over. My partial fracture is now a major one. They strapped me to a donkey and led me out of the village. Then they abandoned me. I spent two days in a hole. On the third day, a woman searching for firewood found me.”
Idriss Yaya Annour Ahmat is now recovering from his injuries in the University Hospital Centre in Abéché, Chad’s third largest city. He is one of 23 patients that the surgical team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has treated since 29 June 2023 when it started working out of the hospital as part of its war surgery programme. Since then, many patients have been operated on in challenging conditions, with each patient requiring, on average, seven to eight procedures.
The needs are huge, but the hospital is short of everything: water, electricity, medicines and beds. The medical team and volunteers from the Chad Red Cross set up makeshift beds in the corridors of the hospital, which was built to accommodate 150 patients. The number of patients is now five times that figure.
“Even though we’re in a relatively big hospital, in a big city, we feel like we’re just in a field hospital,” says Dr Kaleb Abraha Redie, an ICRC doctor who specializes in war surgery. “There are days when we have had to operate with headlamps. We need powerful lights to operate, but we don’t have them.”
It is estimated that, since April, more than 270,000 people fleeing Sudan have sought refuge in Chad, including 20,000 people who came last week alone. The vast majority are women and children.
Like many mothers, Niemat Ebid Abdullah Abbas risked her own life to save her children. She was shot in the hip as she tried to escape. Her emotions are evident as she recalls what happened: “Suddenly, I felt something enter my hip and I fell. My son walked for two or three metres. He came to help me and I told him to go, so that he at least could live. He said: ‘You are my mom, how can I leave you behind?’ Then he carried me to a safe place.”
Our teams in Abéché have noticed that people’s physical wounds often belie their psychological scars, a result of the violent fighting they have endured in Sudan. Diéré Badji, an ICRC nurse, was puzzled by the incessant crying of a seven-year-old girl when changing her dressings. “She was shouting: ‘Baba! Baba!’; she was saying ‘Papa’. The mother told me that the girl’s father was dead. It was heart-wrenching. These people have lived through so much. They’ve crossed one country and fled to safety in another. They need to be comforted and reassured.”
With the rainy season and seasonal flooding on the way, the humanitarian situation in eastern Chad is set to become even more complex in the weeks ahead. The bad weather could exacerbate the situation for displaced people and hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid – at a time when people’s needs are increasing with each day that passes.
The ICRC reminds all parties that, under international humanitarian law, civilians must not be attacked and they must be protected at all times.
For more information, please contact:
Lucien Christen, ICRC Dakar, tel: +221 78 186 46 87, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Abéché, Chad
Filming Date: 17 July 2023
Copyright: ICRC access all
On Screen Credit: ICRC written or logo attached to story
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Wide shot of the CHUA hospital gates.
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Wide shot of the CHUA hospital entrance.
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Refugees wait outside the operating room.
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Men with war wounds sit outside the operating room.
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Medium shot of Idriss sitting on his bed.
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Close up on Idriss.
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Close up on Idriss’s leg.
Interview with Idriss Yaya Annour Ahmat
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“As soon as I got to the village, the villagers made it clear I wasn’t welcome.”
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“They told me outright that they didn’t want me in their village.”
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“I told them if my leg wasn’t broken, I wouldn’t stay, I’d go with the others.”
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“They lifted me up and let me fall. My leg, which was only partially broken, broke completely.”
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“When they realized that I couldn’t stand up anymore,”
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“they strapped me to the back of a donkey and led it out of the village. Then they dumped me in a hole.”
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“I spent two days in that hole. On the third day, I was found by a woman out collecting wood.”
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Wide shot of refugees outside the surgery ward.
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Zoom in on refugees waiting at the door.
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Close up of Niemat Ebid Abdullah Abbas.
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Medium shot of Niemat Ebid Abdullah Abbas.
Interview with Niemat Ebid Abdullah Abbas
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“Many people were fleeing together, looking for safety.”
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“My son was with me.”
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“Suddenly I felt something enter my hip.”
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“I fell down.”
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“My son walked for two or three meters,”
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“then he looked back,”
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“and saw that I had fallen.”
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“He came to help me, but I said I was done.”
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“‘Please go with the others.’”
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“‘You will stay alive, in a safe place.’”
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“He said, ‘You are my mom, how can I leave you behind?’”
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“So he helped me stay with the other people.”
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“He took me to a rather safe place.”
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Medium shot of a hospital nurse.
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A nurse visits patients in the hospital.
Interview with Diéré Badji, nurse
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“Our job as postoperative nurses,”
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“is to think not only about physical health,”
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“but also patients’ mental state.”
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“We need psychologists here,”
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“especially right now, with these patients.”
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“I hear a lot of people telling their stories.”
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“And it’s painful.”
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“They’ve seen terrible things.”
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“They’ve crossed one country and fled to safety in a new country.”
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“So these are patients that need to be comforted and reassured.”
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“There was a seven-year-old girl here with her sister,”
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“and while I was giving her a bandage, she was crying.”
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“I’d asked her mother to sit with her to comfort her,”
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“but she kept crying.”
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“And she kept saying Baba, Baba,
which means ‘Papa’.”
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“She was asking for her dad.
So I asked her mom,”
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“Where is her dad?”
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“I asked her three times.”
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“And the third time, the mother leaned into my colleague’s ear and whispered”
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“that the father was dead.”
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“So I saw the girl crying and wanting her dad there,”
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“but he wasn’t there anymore. And that moved me.”
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“I won’t lie, it was really painful to see.”
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Medium shot of a nurse working.
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Wide shot of nurses going into the operating room.
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A surgeon preps for surgery.
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Wide shot of surgery in progress.
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Surgery in progress behind a glass door.
Interview with Dr Kaleb Abraha Redie
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“Well, the challenges are huge,”
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“but just to summarize them:”
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“there’s an issue with electrical supply,”
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“water supply, infrastructure is not sufficient,”
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“instruments are not adequate,”
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“health personnel, number and capacity is not adequate.”
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“So even though we are in a relatively big hospital and a big city,”
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“we feel like we’re just in a field hospital.”
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“There were days we had to operate with headlamps.”
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“You know, we need powerful lights to operate,”
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“but we don't have them.”
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Surgeon and nurse at work in the operating room.
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Health workers leave the operating room.
Established in 1863, the ICRC operates worldwide helping people affected by conflict and armed violence and promoting the laws that protect victims of war. A neutral, independent and impartial organization, its mandate stems from the Geneva Conventions of 1949.