December 24, 2013

On December 20, after days of relative calm in Bangui, the capial of Central African Republic (CAR), clashes between armed groups resumed, sending waves of wounded people to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) projects around the city—nearly 200 people in the four days that followed.

This violence also drove thousands of people into already-crowded displacement camps where MSF is working to counter some of the health consequences of the appalling living conditions.

The recent spell of violence is an extension of fighting that began in early December, when massive clashes resulted in 190 wounded being brought to l’Hopital Communautaire, the main hospital in Bangui, where MSF is currently handling emergencies.

Despite the presence of international peacekeepers, the ongoing strife is aggravating the chronic emergency humanitarian situation that has persisted in the Central African Republic for years.

“In the days leading up to the 20th, we had seen fewer cases overall, and in particular a reduction in gunshot wounds,” said Jessie Gaffric, project coordinator at the hospital. “Then, on December 20, we saw 49 gunshot wounds, and [we] now continue to receive around 15 a day.”

As more and more people flee their homes and seek refuge in the displaced peoples camps around the city, the number of lower respiratory tract infections MSF is seeing has doubled. At its field hospital in the displaced camp at Bangui airport, approximately 16 percent of the 450 daily consultations are now related to such infections.

“The lack of shelter and other aid provided to this population is making them sick,” said Lindis Hurum, field coordinator at the project. “The deteriorating living conditions in the camp are clear from the cases we are seeing.

“We continue to call on other agencies to step up their efforts to improve conditions in the camp, or the people will continue to suffer and we will continue to see the consequences.”

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MSF has been working in CAR since 1997 and is currently managing seven regular projects (in Batangafo, Boguila, Carnot, Kabo, Ndéle, Paoua, and Zémio) and four emergency projects (in Bangui, Bossangoa, Bouca, and Bria). A mobile emergency team covers the displaced persons’ camps in Bangui. By the end of the year, MSF hopes to be able to launch activities in the hospitals in Bangassou and Ouango.

MSF currently offers free medical care to approximately 400,000 people and provides approximately 800 hospital beds. We are working in seven hospitals, two health centers, and 40 health posts. Our teams are composed of more than 100 expatriate health care workers and around 1,100 Central African Republic staff.