BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC—Following the brutal killing of more than one dozen civilians and three of its humanitarian workers in a hospital in the Central African Republic (CAR) last month, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today announced a one-week reduction of its activities in the country.
MSF is reducing its activities in CAR and in neighboring countries where it is supporting Central African refugees. The organization is also evaluating the working environment for its staff and the broader potential impact on its medical activities of the armed robbery and resulting massacre at the main hospital in the northern town of Boguila, in Ouham Prefecture on April 26, in which 16 people, including the three MSF workers, were killed.
“We urge the transitional government in CAR and all armed groups involved in the conflict to immediately and publicly condemn this horrific attack,” said Arjan Hehenkamp, general director of MSF. “We demand that all armed groups take responsibility for the population living in areas under their control, publicly commit to reining in their troops, and respect civilians and humanitarian workers.”
Neither CAR’s transitional government nor representatives of armed groups have strongly condemned the massacre in Boguila, or other similar acts of violence throughout the country. It is crucial that parties to the conflict take responsibility and position themselves publicly on these attacks, MSF said.
As of today, all MSF outpatient, antenatal, and psychological consultations, along with vaccination and mobile clinic activities, are suspended in CAR for one week, along with related programs for Central African refugees in neighboring Chad, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In CAR alone, this represents approximately 25,000 outpatient consultations, 40 to 50 percent of which are typically related to malaria, which is endemic in CAR.
In Boguila, MSF treated more than 40,000 people with malaria, 20,000 of whom were children under five, from January to March of this year. During the same period, MSF nearly doubled its medical services in the whole of the Central African Republic, where the health system is practically non-existent. More than 315,000 consultations were performed (45 percent for malaria), 11,400 people were admitted to hospitals, and nearly 3,300 people suffering violence-related injuries were treated.
Enduring more than one year of conflict, CAR’s population continues to suffer extreme levels of violence, forced displacement, and an unprecedented health crisis, largely in the face of indifference from the international community and peacekeeping forces deployed in the country, MSF said.
“We also ask that the transitional government, supported by international military forces, live up to their mandate and provide the population the protection they so urgently need,” Hehenkamp said.
Over the past 16 months, MSF teams have experienced 115 security incidents, 31 of which were armed attacks. In 2013, two MSF staff members and a patient were killed. The majority of violent acts have occurred in Ouham Prefecture. Ministry of Health staff and other international humanitarian organizations have also been targeted in violent attacks in CAR.
“An attack on MSF is an attack on one of the only organizations providing any kind of medical care in the country,” said Hehenkamp. “We remain committed to provide the people of CAR the medical assistance they need, but the various parties must live up to their responsibilities.”
Since 2006, MSF has managed the 115-bed hospital in Boguila, and has dispensed primary and secondary health care to an estimated population of 45,000 people in the region. The MSF teams also supports seven health posts around Boguila, mainly treating malaria and referring severe cases to the hospital. Each month, between 9,000 and 13,000 general consultations are conducted, and 5,000 to 10,000 people are treated for malaria.
MSF has been working in CAR since 1997, and currently has more than 300 international staff and more than 2,000 Central African staff working in the country. MSF is running seven regular projects (in Batangafo, Carnot, Kabo, Ndélé, Paoua, Bria, and Zémio) and six emergency projects (in Bangui, Berbérati, Boguila, Bossangoa, Bangassou, and Bocaranga, as well as mobile clinics in the northwest of the country). MSF teams are also providing assistance to Central African refugees who have fled to Chad, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.