Insecurity In Central African Republic Threatens Lives of Civilians and Aid Workers, Blocking Urgent Medical Care

All mobile medical activities in northwest suspended after shooting death of MSF staff member

Bangui, Central African Republic, June 25, 2007 — The insecurity that prevails in northwestern Central African Republic (CAR) is severely impacting civilian populations and the humanitarian workers assisting them, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

After the violent death of our colleague Elsa Serfass on June 11, all MSF mobile medical activities in the region have been suspended while all hospitals remain fully operational. Other humanitarian organizations present in the area have followed suit, bringing assistance to this highly vulnerable population to a standstill outside the main towns. MSF urgently calls upon all parties within CAR to respect the lives of the civilian population and to ensure that humanitarian workers can safely access people in need throughout the region.

Over the past few months, people living in northwestern CAR have faced increasing violence and insecurity at the hands of warring parties and bandits. Villagers are fleeing into the bush after their homes have been attacked, burned, and pillaged. The displaced often lack access to adequate shelter and potable water, and are vulnerable to malaria, respiratory infections, and diarrhoea. During the first five months of 2007, MSF-supported health structures have performed more than 95,000 consultations. Among the predominant morbidities, 25,078 people were treated for malaria, of which 15,356 were children under five years of age.

All parties are contributing to the insecurity in this region and humanitarian workers have been subjected to threats, and, more recently, kidnappings. In the past five months, MSF's mobile clinics—which provide life-saving primary health care to 6,553 people per month—have been suspended 29 times due to insecurity. If this insecurity blocks humanitarian workers from reaching people in need, it is just as bad, if not worse, for patients trying to reach us. People fear venturing outside their villages or hiding-places in the bush, even to access much-needed medical care.

MSF calls on all parties to the conflict to respect the lives and health of civilians in northwestern CAR, and to ensure humanitarian space for aid to reach those who need it most. If insecurity prevents humanitarian organizations from continuing their activities, the first victims will be these populations affected by violence, intimidation, and displacement. It is their lives and health that continue to hang in the balance.

MSF is present throughout the violence-affected areas of northern CAR, where 540 staff provides urgently-needed primary and secondary health care with a network of hospitals, health centers, and mobile medical activities in and around Paoua, Boguila, Markounda, Batangafo, Kabo, Kaga Bandoro, Gordil, and Birao.