Paris/Bangui, June 11, 2007 -- It is with great sadness that Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has learned of the death of one of its volunteers in the Central African Republic. Elsa Serfass, a 27-year-old French citizen, was killed today by gunfire during an assessment mission in the northwestern part of the country. Ms. Serfass was on her first assignment with MSF, working as a logistician.
Elsa was based in Paoua, working in MSF's project providing assistance to victims of ongoing violence. The northwest region of the Central African Republic is in the grip of a conflict between rebel groups and armed government forces. Criminal acts are also frequent and armed highway robbers often take advantage of the instability.
The local population is targeted by systematic violence. Many villages along the roadways have been attacked, pillaged, and burned, forcing inhabitants to flee and try to survive in the bush, where they live in extremely precarious conditions. The health-care system has also collapsed in the region, and insecurity has made it even more difficult for people to obtain medical treatment.
MSF is working in Paoua and surrounding areas, providing primary and secondary care in the town's referral hospital; mobile teams travel to several villages in the region to provide primary care. After a May 30 rebel attack in the town of N'Gaoundal and the government's violent reprisals, MSF learned of the catastrophic health conditions in the area and decided to carry out an assessment.
During that mission, an MSF vehicle was hit by gunfire and Elsa was fatally injured. Her tragic death is a terrible shock for MSF and we mourn her loss. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.
In addition to the French section of MSF based in Paoua, the Dutch, Spanish, and Belgian sections of Médecins Sans Frontières also work in the north of the Central African Republic, in and around the towns of Markounda, Boguila, Kabo, and Batangafo, to provide primary and secondary health care to people affected by the conflict. In the northeast of the country, the Dutch MSF section is carrying out a program in the town of Birao.