Massacres, killings, torture, mass displacements, misery, urgent medical needs—these have been regular features of life in Central African Republic (CAR) in the year since a coup d’etat triggered recurring waves of violence in the country that continue to this day.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has been on the ground in CAR for many years and has significantly scaled up its operations in the country in response to this ongoing emergency, has released a report called “Central African Republic: A Year of Continuing Violence Against Civilians,” in which MSF teams and patients speak about the atrocities they have witnessed.
Ever since armed members of the former Séléka rebel coalition seized Bangui, CAR’s capital city, on March 24, 2013, this already troubled, long-ignored, and underdeveloped country has been wracked by interwoven political and military crises that have had tragic consequences for the entire population.
”What is happening in the CAR is absolutely shocking,” said Marie-Noëlle Rodrigue, MSF director of operations, when she returned from CAR. “We are used to operating in very violent situations, but in this case even our most hardened members have rarely seen such levels of violence.”
The events of the past year are playing out against the background of the country’s dire health situation, which was already extremely fragile. CAR’s health indicators are amongst the lowest in the world, and even in peacetime, mortality rates in parts of the country were well above the emergency threshold.
“The humanitarian and medical situation was already horrendous before the coup d’état, but it has been getting even worse over the last 12 months,” says Rodrigue. “We know the crisis in CAR is set to continue for some time. However, on the ground, today, there are still not enough of us to address the clamor [for] needs. And yet, the urgency continues.”
In spite of deteriorating security conditions, critical needs have to be met. This is why MSF considers CAR one of its most pressing priority contexts and why MSF is increasing its activities in the country.
MSF now has some 2,200 people working in 16 projects throughout CAR. Since the escalation of the conflict last December, which triggered a mass exodus of the minority Muslim populations and affected numerous other communities as well, teams have treated 4,000 injured people in CAR and continued to run programs that offer a full complement of medical services.
With the number of displaced people in CAR nearing 1 million, including nearly 300,000 people who have fled to neighboring countries, MSF has also dispatched additional teams to Chad, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The one-year anniversary of the coup cannot just be an occasion for looking back. The international community must work in the future to find ways to provide concrete and effective assistance to civilians whose urgent needs are not being met.