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Arrival of Sudanese refugees in Chad: a challenge for humanitarian logistics


Emergency | Chad | PUBLISHED ON January 3rd 2024
Several people stand under the awning at the entrance to the rehabilitated airfield.

August 2023, Adré. Entrance to Adré aerodrome being rehabilitated by Atlas Logistique teams. | © HI

Thousands of refugees continue to arrive in eastern Chad after eight months of war in Sudan. This massive influx of people is presenting humanitarian workers with a host of logistical challenges.

Since April 2023, Sudan has been the grips of an armed conflict that is tearing the country apart. Clashes have broken out throughout the country, and notably in the capital Khartoum and the Darfur region near the eastern border with Chad. By 25 November, some 451,894 refugees fleeing the violence had already crossed into Chad1. To respond to this emergency and help the Chadian authorities cope with the massive arrival of Sudanese refugees and Chadian returnees in the Ouaddaï, Sila and Wadi Fira regions, a team from Atlas Logistique, the operational component of HI's Logistics Division, has been deployed in Adré since May 2023 as part of the European Humanitarian Response Capability (EHRC)*. The team is focusing on civil engineering, logistics and humanitarian access.

Rehabilitating Adré’s airstrip

The many gullies running along the road to Adré fill up and overflow with water during the rainy season, often blocking vehicle traffic for days at a time and preventing humanitarian aid from getting through.
As for Adré’s airfield, it had been unused for several years and was in poor condition. As part of the European Union's EHRC project, HI's operational unit, Atlas Logistique, decided to begin its mission in Adré by rehabilitating the airstrip to provide a more efficient transport solution for humanitarian personnel and greater flexibility in the event of medical evacuations. 

The airstrip was cleared and the tarmac was reprofiled and compacted, to bring the surface up to standard. It was also extended by 400 metres, giving it a total length of 1,200 metres and a width of 30 metres. At the same time, new water pipes were put down to drain off rainwater and maintain safety. Atlas Logistique teams then built a manoeuvring and parking area for loading and unloading. Finally, signage was put in place:

  • on the ground, with visibility markers to outline the airstrip,
  • at height, with a mast and a windsock to show wind direction
  • and in the area surrounding the aerodrome.

After 16 weeks of rehabilitation work, this airstrip was finished. It is now being used for flights by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

Organising the warehousing of humanitarian supplies

Teams have also conducted an environmental assessment to determine how the other humanitarian organisations' supply chains work (origin of supplies, storage capacity, final destinations, etc.) and to map the main supply centres, routes and destinations, as well as storage capacity.
The constant arrival of humanitarian actors in Adré and the region, in addition to those already present before the start of the conflict, has put pressure on the supply market and so on local activities. Warehousing facilities and land available for the installation of storage units are limited. Atlas Logistique, which specialises in the delivery of humanitarian aid, has therefore set up a shared warehousing service for all the humanitarian actors on the ground.

"On these sites, we can handle loads transported by big trucks, many of them arriving from N'Djamena. We unload, store and even provide a packaging service if required. The goods are then reloaded a few days or weeks later and sent out to the different humanitarian projects underway in the region. Our partners are satisfied with the service we offer, as we meet their needs while remaining flexible in emergencies," adds Marvin Vidon, Warehousing Project Manager at Atlas Logistique.

HI’s three 880m storage facilities are available for use by the humanitarian community, relieving pressure on local resources, offering a rapid solution to organisations already present or setting up their activities and relieving NGOs of a significant workload, notably by providing packaging services to facilitate aid distributions. 

1. Emergency situation in Chad on 25 November 2023, UNHCR.

This project is supported by funding from the European Humanitarian Response Capacity (EHRC) until February 2024.
The European Humanitarian Response Capacity (EHRC) is a set of operational tools designed by the European Union to fill the gaps in the response to disasters and humanitarian crises.
The three pillars of the EHRC are:

  1. Common logistics services for humanitarian actors (air and land transport, warehousing services);
  2. Pre-positioned stockpiles in strategic zones around the world;
  3. Deployment of expertise, mainly in the logistics and health sectors.

Since April 2022, Atlas Logistique - Handicap International's operational unit specialising in emergency logistics - has been working to support the first pillar of the EHRC in various contexts such as in Ukraine (opening of warehouses and logistics facilities in Vinnytsia, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Mykolaev and a road transport system for humanitarian assistance, particularly in hard-to-reach areas where needs are greatest)and Chad (rehabilitation of a humanitarian air strip and opening of warehouses for the humanitarian community in the East), and in the ongoing response in support of the Gaza Strip (cold chain management capacity-building in Egypt and opening of warehouses for humanitarian actors in Gaza).


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