CAR: Thousands Seek Refuge in Batangafo



People in Batangafo, Central African Republic (CAR), are struggling to continue normal lives in the wake of intense fighting between Seleka militias and Sangaris (French military) forces. The clashes left dozens dead and wounded, and again caused terror among the inhabitants of the area. Fearing another surge of violence, some 1,500 residents of the town seek shelter every night at the local hospital, while at least 4,000 more also seek refuge at the headquarters of the African Union peacekeeping mission (MISCA).

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical officer Cecilia Greco visited the periphery of Batangafo and found that "many of the inhabitants have left the city for surrounding areas or even in the direction of Bouca," a nearby town located further south. "Right now the situation seems calmer, and perhaps in a few weeks people will be back in their homes," she added.

After a few days of limited activity due to safety concerns, MSF has resumed normal operations in the Batangafo hospital. This comes at a time when the area is in the peak of the malaria season, increasing the need for medical care in the region.

The fighting began during the first week of August and included aerial bombardment by French forces and artillery fire from both sides. Days of clashes killed at least 15 people and injured dozens, 10 of which were treated by MSF.

The parties agreed to a ceasefire that included the departure of Sangaris and the deployment of MISCA patrols in Batangafo, though the population fears that the ceasefire may be broken. However, in the short term, no major new clashes are expected, according to MSF head of mission Javier Eguren.

MSF calls on all parties to the conflict to respect civilians and humanitarian workers in CAR.

MSF has worked in the Central African Republic since 1997 and currently has more than 300 international staff and more than 2,000 Central African workers in the country. Since December 2013, MSF has doubled its medical assistance in response to the ongoing crisis,  from 10 to 21 projects and is running an additional six emergency projects for Central African refugees in the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Batangafo, MSF is managing the general hospital (165 beds) and supporting five health centres in the surrounding areas. In June, almost 8,000 consultations were conducted, 3,000 of which were children under the age of five

People look for shelter in the hospital supported by MSF in Batangafo (CAR)