The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is temporarily suspending movements to supported health centers on the outskirts of Batangafo, in northern Central African Republic, following several violent attacks against staff and patients. MSF teams have been targeted in 16 violent attacks in 2023—including two in the past week, on August 26 and 30—which have jeopardized MSF's ability to continue providing health care in the area.
“We are outraged by any violence committed against patients, their caretakers, our staff, and referral motorbike riders clearly identified as belonging to a humanitarian organization,” said Gisa Kohler, MSF manager of operations in the Central African Republic. "We call on all armed groups to respect and protect health care staff, humanitarian workers, patients, and their caretakers."
The assaults are mostly violent robberies perpetrated by armed groups who have attacked MSF staff on motorbikes as they transport patients, community health workers providing care in rural areas, and convoys of staff on their way to provide health outreach activities. In March and August this year, two attacks involved sexual violence against an MSF staff member and caretakers of patients.
“Our teams are robbed relentlessly at gun point," said Kohler. "Local armed groups always attribute the actions to 'uncontrolled elements' to avoid [taking] any responsibility—[which is] unacceptable.”
MSF is committed to providing medical care to save lives in Batangafo, but cannot continue to do so if it means putting patients and staff at risk.
"While the conflict in Central African Republic may not be in the [global] spotlight, violence against the local [community] is happening here all the time. The repeated attacks affecting MSF endangers the continuation of our medical activities in the [outskirts] of Batangafo. If we were forced to leave, this would severely limit access to health care for people in rural areas,” said Kohler.
Following these incidents, MSF is temporarily suspending movements to supported health centers on the outskirts of Batangafo and the referral of patients living in areas between Batangafo and Ouogo, where one of the latest incidents occurred.
In 2022, MSF was forced to close operations in Kabo, in the north of the country, after 16 years, following an attack on a convoy in January. MSF closed the project as it could not ensure the safe movement of teams.