CAR: MSF Expands Emergency Assistance Amid Worsening Violence

Juan Carlos Tomasi/MSF

Following several episodes of fatal inter-communal violence in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui last week, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams treated more than 200 people at Community Hospital and at the Castor Health Center; 90 of the patients required life-saving surgeries.

“We see a large number of cases every day,” said Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, MSF head of mission in the Central African Republic. “Our teams have witnessed the consequences of extreme violence, including bullet wounds, maimings from attacks, and lynchings, which are daily realities in Bangui.”

Thousands of people are fleeing the city out of fear of violence or are gathering in camps, where living conditions are extremely harsh. Humanitarian aid remains inadequate in the face of the significant needs.

MSF has increased activities and set up a 60-bed clinic at the displaced persons’ site at Bangui’s M’Poko Airport, where more than 100,000 people are still gathered. MSF is also providing medical assistance in the capital at displaced persons’ sites at the Boy-Rabe and Don Bosco monasteries.

Nearly 30,000 people have taken shelter at each site. MSF teams are also working at several health centers across the city, and a medical team is in Zongo to assist refugees who crossed the Ubangi River to reach the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

MSF teams perform approximately 12,000 medical consultations and deliver nearly 300 babies every week in Bangui. Patients are treated for violence-related injuries and malaria, the country’s leading cause of death. People are also suffering from respiratory infections and diarrhea, which are directly associated with the poor living conditions in the displacement camps.

MSF teams are attempting to improve living conditions by distributing basic supplies, building latrines, and distributing water to displaced persons in sites at the airport, Don Bosco, the Koranic school at PK5, and in St. Sauveur parish.

Situation is worsening in the country’s interior

Fighting and reprisal attacks continue between Séléka fighters and anti-Balaka militias. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates there are more than 900,000 displaced persons—representing more than 20 precent of the  entire population—across the country. Because of insecurity, they lack access to medical care and many people are hiding in the bush out of fear of violence.

Faced with this upsurge of violence, MSF has begun supporting the Berbérati Hospital, in the city of the same name, in the country’s southwest. Medical teams there are supporting its nutrition program and pediatric unit.

MSF is also launching new projects in the northwest of the country. A team arrived in Bouar to assist with medical and surgical emergencies at the hospital there. An MSF team is already delivering logistical and medical assistance to the Bozoum Hospital and has set up mobile clinics for the 2,500 people blocked inside the city by inter-communal violence.

MSF emergency teams have also reached the cities of Bossemptélé, Baoro, and Bocaranga.

“Bocaranga is a ghost town,” said Delphine Chedorge, MSF emergency coordinator. “It’s empty, destroyed, and looted. It’s frightening there. Our contacts in the province are reporting extreme violence and population displacements. The population is terrorized. Unfortunately, the insecurity is slowing our ability to provide aid at the very moment when the situation calls for an emergency response that meets the populations’ needs.”

MSF is also continuing emergency activities in Bossangoa, Bouguila, and Bouca, where it supports hospital departments and activities in camps located inside the cities, and organizes mobile clinics to assist people who flee to the bush with every new cycle of violence.

MSF has been working in the Central African Republic (CAR) since 1997. The organization manages seven regular projects (in Batangafo, Carnot, Kabo, Ndélé, Paoua, Bria and Zémio) and eight emergency projects (in Bangui, Bozoum, Berbérati, Bouar, Boguila, Bossangoa and Bouca). In addition, a mobile emergency surgical team is traveling to Bossemptélé.

MSF hopes to be able to launch activities at the hospitals in Bangassou and Ouango soon. Overall, MSF provides free medical care to nearly 400,000 people in 12 hospitals, 16 health centers and 40 health posts. The organization’s teams include approximately 200 expatriate staff and more than 1,800 local employees.

Heath center, Don Bosco camp, Bangui.
Juan Carlos Tomasi/MSF