Hundreds or even thousands of Sudanese, mostly women and children, cross the small, dry border waterway every day to seek refuge in Chad on donkeys, horses, carts or even on foot.
At the beginning of May, at least 20,000 of them found refuge in a makeshift camp in the Chadian village of Koufron, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which is taking care of them as best it can with other UN agencies and NGOs.
Hundreds of meters away from the site, towards the east, is the state of West Darfur, one of the Sudanese states most affected – along with Khartoum – from the war that the army led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo have been waging since April 15.
Most of the refugees fled from the small village of Tandelti, about twenty kilometers from Kafroun, amid fierce fighting.
Most of them arrived empty-handed, in an indication of the speed of their mass exodus from West Darfur, where the United Nations counted about a hundred dead a week ago.
Others carried some things and some food as they walked under the scorching sun to seek refuge in the shade of the few large acacia trees, where temporary shelters have been set up, according to AFP correspondents in the area.
While they are distributed in small groups over an area of two square kilometers, some of them use an apron and a scarf to avoid the sun.
Mohammed Hassan Hamad built for himself, his wife, and their 11 children, a makeshift room under a tree with straw walls and a canvas roof.
The 52-year-old weaver arrived in Kovron two weeks ago after fleeing Tendelti.
He recounts in a trembling voice while his eyes were wet with tears: “The Rapid Support Forces attacked early in the morning. They burned our homes and destroyed everything in their path. I took my children to cross the border.”
“Now, I have nothing left to feed my children, there is no work, and my sewing machines have been taken over by the attackers.”
“We didn’t get anything from UNHCR,” says Mohammed.
“They attacked our village and when some of us wanted to leave their homes, they killed them, three or four of them,” said Busina Muhammad Arabi (37 years old), another refugee to Kovron.
All of the refugees interviewed by AFP said the attacks were carried out by the Rapid Support Forces.
Henette Isaac Abkar, 17, stared into space. “I only had time to take my certificate, which would allow me to go to university, before eloping with my little brother and little sister,” says the young girl. She adds, crying: “I don’t know where my mother and father are.”
Ashai Idris, a woman in her 30s, said: “I was in the market selling coffee when the incidents broke out.”
“I just had time to gather my things and flee towards the border like the others,” she added.
And she continues, “Thank God, I have resumed my activity and prepare coffee to sell, and this allows me to meet my small needs in this place.”
Desperate refugees are turning to humanitarian workers, but they also seem overburdened, more than 800 kilometers east of N’Djamena.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is distributing medical aid, including kitchen utensils, blankets and mats.
“We are using emergency stocks to provide relief to refugees who come in huge numbers, in one of the most deprived areas in the world in terms of water and health facilities,” said Donaig Le Du, responsible for communications at UNICEF in Chad.
For its part, Premiere Urgence Internationale has set up a temporary medical center in Covron. Three health workers work there every day trying to provide consultations, mainly for women, children and the elderly.
About 100 to 200 people visit them every day, says Ndombay Thirtos, director of the organization at the site, adding that “the main diseases are respiratory diseases, gastritis and malnutrition.”
Humanitarians fear that the humanitarian situation could quickly turn catastrophic in Kovron.
“If we don’t act now, it will be too late,” says Brice Degla, UNHCR’s emergency coordinator in Chad.