MSF Expands Work In CAR Amidst Ongoing Conflict

MSF has sent new teams to aid populations in CAR affected by ongoing conflict in the country.

Fighting and violence continued over the past week in several areas in the north and center of Central African Republic. Increased military movements and clashes between rebels and the army have forced the civilian population to leave their homes, preventing them from accessing the basic services they need—medical aid, in particular. This situation could have fatal consequences for people already struggling to find care after a decade of chronic armed violence had severely limited the country’s health system.

After hostilities near the towns of Kaga Bandoro and Mbrès, a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency surgical team in Kaga Bandoro tended to five wounded patients and readied to receive more patients. Another team assessed the potential medical needs around the town of Sibut. The heavy presence of military in the area and the population’s fear of hostilities have also lead to preventative displacement. MSF donated drugs to the hospital of Sibut to help respond to an increased number of patients if needed.

In the town of Batangafo, which has been occupied by rebels since December 20, the population is terrified of the fighting that could occur. General insecurity has increased in the area, diminishing access to medical aid for the population. “Because of the insecurity in the area, it is impossible to refer any patient from the peripheral health posts to the hospital in case of severe conditions and emergencies due to the total restriction of moto-taxi movements,” says Amal El Oualji, MSF’s project coordinator in Batangafo. MSF is still running its services at the hospital and supporting a nearby health post as much as the security situation allows it.

In the town of Ndélé, in the north of CAR, which was attacked on December 10, the situation is still very precarious. Although some people have dared to return, insecurity is still dissuading others from doing likewise. Continuous lootings coupled with sporadic gunshots at night are preventing the population from returning to their normal daily habits. MSF is aware of at least 2,600 displaced people who are spending nights in small groups, hiding in the bush or seeking refuge at the airstrip, not far from town. Unfortunately, this is only a small fraction of the displaced population; most are spending the nights close to their crops fields in smaller groups of between two and five families spread over many kilometers with no road access. Many of them suffer from diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory infection or diarrhea. The MSF team in Ndélé is running a mobile clinic along with its regular activities at the hospital.

MSF has been present in CAR since 1997 and works in seven different projects in five of the country’s seven health districts. It supports seven hospitals and about 38 health posts in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. MSF activities in CAR cover a wide range of services from primary and secondary health, to neglected diseases, nutrition and surgery. Malaria, which is the primary cause of morbidity, is often the main focus of the projects. Vaccination, sleeping sickness, HIV and TB, and nutrition are also priorities of MSF’s work in CAR.