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On the ground in Chad, where Sudanese refugees have been fleeing


Nearly 400,000 people have fled Sudan into neighboring Chad, trying to escape renewed violence this year. The conflict between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces erupted in mid-April, and there is no end in sight. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is in Africa right now, where she visited the border between Chad and Sudan today. Traveling with her is our colleague and Morning Edition co-host Michel Martin. She joins me now from Chad's capital, N'Djamena. Hi, Michel.


SUMMERS: I mean, Michel, just start by telling us - why is Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield visiting refugees along the border between Chad and Sudan right now?

MARTIN: Well, Juana, to be honest, she came partly to bring people like us here to bring more attention to the crisis. She says that the U.S. is doing its part and is prepared to do more. But she says she's worried that the international community is not doing enough to both support the refugees and to try to stop the fighting that is causing them to flee to begin with.

SUMMERS: So what I hear you saying there is that she wants to see other countries do more to pay attention to the situation, which I guess begs the question - what is the U.S. doing? How is the U.S. helping out?

MARTIN: Well, today the ambassador announced that the U.S. will contribute another $163 million in aid. She said that brings the total U.S. contribution to $710 million for this fiscal year alone. The U.S. also announced sanctions on one senior member of that paramilitary group that you mentioned, the RSF, and also a visa ban on another senior member, saying that they are linked to atrocities and have committed that themselves. And I asked her if she thinks this will make a difference, and this is what she said.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They absolutely will have an impact. It will say to them as well as others that you won't get away scot-free. You're not going to be able to travel to the United States. You will be held accountable for the actions you have committed.

MARTIN: And I want to mention that the ambassador emphasized that the U.S. has been the largest single donor to aid in relief efforts in this region and to this conflict, but that - she says the U.S. cannot do it alone and that other countries need to step up.

SUMMERS: Michel, if you can, can you just take us along with you on this trip? What have you and your team been seeing as you've been traveling with the ambassador? What's it like?

MARTIN: Well, Juana, one of the things I just really want to try to help you see is the scale of this. I mean, you gave that number at the beginning - close to 400,000 people have crossed just since April. Now, what does that look like? Now, a lot of Americans are disturbed by encampments of unhoused people that have sprung up in a lot of American cities. OK. Imagine a football field filled with encampments like that, OK? And now imagine five football fields filled with encampments like that. And I'm talking about - I'm not talking about, you know, the kinds of tents that Americans are used to seeing. I'm talking about, you know, plastic sheets. I'm talking about, you know, tarps. I'm talking about these very kind of flimsy enclosures held together with twigs or twine or whatever people can scrounge together. It's just a very shocking sight, and it's just really hard to describe the scale of it.

SUMMERS: As you've been traveling alongside the ambassador, have you and your team had the opportunity to interact with or speak with any of these refugees who have been fleeing into Chad to escape that horrific violence?

MARTIN: We have. And one of the things that I'd like people to understand is that I think many people may have this image that you've got people fleeing from nothing to nothing. And that isn't the case from what we saw. Many of the people we talked to had lives, livelihoods, businesses in Sudan. One person we talked to had a hotel. Another person had worked for a number of NGOs. And, you know, just like in other parts of the world - like Ukraine, for example - imagine having to leave everything you've built for your life, everything you know, gather your family and flee for your life. And many of the people we talked to said that they feel very much caught in the middle and that everything is out of their hands. And they are desperate for help, and they are desperately hoping for a resolution to this crisis.

SUMMERS: That's our colleague and Morning Edition co-host, Michel Martin, joining us from Chad. Michel, safe travels, and thank you for bringing us your reporting.

MARTIN: Thank you.

SUMMERS: And you can hear more of Michel Martin and her team's reporting tomorrow on Morning Edition. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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.