Reference : V-P-TD-E-00744
Date : 12/07/2023
Country/Region : SUDAN; CHAD
Caption : Adré, Abéché, university hospital centre. Sudanese patient admitted to the hospital after he was attacked whilst fleeing to Chad.
Photographer : GUEIPEUR, Denis Sassou
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : Source: ICRC website, article 16/10/2023.

"In July 2023, I was sent to eastern Chad to meet people who had fled Sudan on foot because of the violence. I spent two weeks in an ICRC-supported hospital with patients recovering from bullet wounds, hearing what they had to say. Through their stories I saw how incredibly cruel war is to those who cannot protect themselves. But I also saw how tremendously strong they were in their struggle to survive.
"The hospital was built in the 1970s with a capacity of 289 people. There must have been five times that many patients while I was there. Mothers and their newborns lined up on wooden benches outside overcrowded rooms, shifting uncomfortably, trying to rest. The delivery room, too, made an impression: the rusty pink chair darkened by stains was anything but welcoming. But it was there that the infants took their first breaths.
"An ICRC medical team made up of two nurses, an anaesthetist, and a surgeon had arrived a week before me to treat wounded refugees arriving from Darfur, Sudan. They brought expertise and dedication to life-saving work, but the conditions were difficult. Frequent power cuts forced them to operate by the light of headlamps, as they would in makeshift hospitals in the bush. There was little clean water and medicine, and the lack of personnel meant they worked long hours.
"The rooms where their patients convalesced after surgery had rows of identical metal-framed beds with thin black plastic mattresses. The yellowish walls with retro tiling gave the absurd impression that the room and the entire hospital were cold. The stifling air stirred by the ceiling fan reminded me otherwise. Thankfully, between the beds, relatives had set down colourful mats to sleep on and keep watch, adding a welcoming and homey touch.
"Before the outbreak of violence, Abdel was studying geography at university. Now recovering, he notes that, at 31, he has lived through more war than peace. The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 and officially ended in 2020, following the signing of a peace agreement.
"For many, reaching Chad was a welcome respite, but more of a rest stop than the end of their journey. Every single patient told me about a loved one who had gone missing or died. Our conversations often brought them back to their peaceful lives from before – as a bank agent, a university student, a shopkeeper. These were the very normal lives of the people I met. Today, they are struggling to recover from infected wounds, which can take months to heal.
"Abdel told me that after he was wounded, he found refuge in a school, where he hid for two months with others from his neighbourhood. Many died from a lack of medical care and food. He escaped the town with other survivors and headed towards the border with Chad. On his way, an armed group attacked the car he was in. Since he was wounded, he played dead. It saved him. Everyone else was killed. After that, unable to walk, he crawled for nearly four kilometres until he found a village that would take him in."
Original material : digital
Resolution : 3984x2656
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour