A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mobile emergency team is providing round-the-clock medical care at Bangui airport, addressing the medical needs of some 40,000 displaced people who’ve been sheltering there following an outbreak of violence that has convulsed the Central African Republic capital since December 5.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” said Rosa Crestani, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Bangui. “Sanitary conditions are deplorable and people are living in fear. Having fled their homes, they are now seeking shelter underneath airplane wings or wherever else they can find it.”
MSF has been carrying out more than 200 consultations per day at the airport, primarily providing dressing for wounds, abscesses, and burns, and treating respiratory tract infections and malaria. The team has also assisted in the delivery of several babies and is providing referrals of medical and surgical emergencies to city hospital facilities, such as Castor Maternity, Community Hospital, or the Pediatric Complex.
Given the insecurity that’s afflicted much of CAR over the past year, MSF has expanded its programs in the country and is striving to address a host of unfulfilled medical needs ranging from the treatment of chronic diseases and tuberculosis to malaria care and vaccinations. But as the needs mount without a sufficient response from the broader international community, tensions are rising, as they have been at the airport.
Yesterday, MSF released an open letter addressed to Valérie Amos, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs. The letter stated that UN organizations have failed to deliver an adequate response given the gravity and the scale of humanitarian needs on the ground. Organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the CAR Red Cross have started to provide water and sanitation services, but needs are far from covered.
“Although MSF is able to provide medical support, many other needs remain unfulfilled such as food, shelter, and protection,” said Crestani. “Water and sanitation is a disaster, and the risk of further disease is high as a result. This situation is untenable.”
MSF’s mobile emergency team has also started to support medical activities in Bangui’s Boy Rabe monastery, where an additional 10,000 displaced people have sought refuge. On December 11 and 12, the first two days of activities at this location, MSF carried out 231 consultations and provided dressing for 31 wounded.
In addition, MSF also provides medical care, hospital referrals, and water and sanitation activities at the Don Bosco camp, where more then 13,000 displaced people are residing.
Overall, MSF, which has been present in CAR since 1997, 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). In addition, a mobile emergency team is covering the displaced camps of Bangui.
By the end of the year, MSF hopes to start activities in the hospitals of Bangassou and Ouango. In total, it provides free medical care to nearly 400,000 people; through its work in seven hospitals, two medical centers, and 40 health posts; and has more than 100 expatriate personnel and about 1,100 local staff in its teams.