UPDATED: Civilians, Hospitals Affected by Extreme Violence in Bangui, CAR

Samuel Hanryon/MSF

UPDATE: NEW YORK—Insecurity has forced the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to drastically reduce its medical activities at the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, where approximately 100,000 displaced people are taking refuge, MSF said today.

Over the past two days, gun violence has occurred near a clinic run by MSF in the airport. Two young children were killed and 40 wounded people arrived at the clinic.

MSF is now operating at the airport camp with a reduced emergency team, treating only the most severe cases and providing emergency referrals to other structures. MSF has on average been carrying out 500 consultations, treating 100 wounded patients, and assisting in seven deliveries at the airport each day.

MSF has also had to suspend plans for expanding its activities at the airport camp, including opening two new health posts, and carrying out measles vaccinations and nutritional support. MSF is the only medical provider at the camp.

Security at the airport needs to be improved in order for MSF to fully resume medical activities. MSF continues its other activities in Bangui in two hospitals and two other displaced persons camps.

PARIS/NEW YORK December 30, 2013 – Despite the presence of international armed forces in the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), fighting, lynchings and violent attacks remain a daily occurrence in Bangui, where the situation appears to be out of control, the international medical humanitarian organization MSF said today.

Since early December, MSF teams working in several medical projects in Bangui have treated more than 1,000 victims of violence. Between 15 and 20 wounded people arrive each day at the Castor Health Center, where MSF teams have treated a total of 343 victims of violence since December 7. At the Hôpital Communautaire, MSF teams are treating 15 to 20 wounded patients per day, and treated 648 people between December 2 and 27. Of those, 368 suffered gunshot wounds, 128 were injured by machetes, and 428 were hospitalized.

"We have been receiving more patients with serious injuries at the Hôpital Communautaire the last few days," said Laurent Sury, MSF's emergency coordinator in Bangui. "People are coming in with machete wounds to the head, hands and arms – injuries sustained as they tried to defend themselves. We've also seen people who have been stabbed, sometimes multiple times, in the abdomen, and people who have been either tortured or brutally beaten. We have even had a case of impalement. For the most part, these are young men."

Health facilities have also been affected by the violence, hindering the provision of medical aid. An armed man entered the MSF dispensary at Bangui airport on December 24, while on the same day a man armed with grenades entered the Hôpital Communautaire. On December 25, gunfire erupted in the vicinity of Hôpital Communautaire, where large numbers of armed men had gathered. Three of the men entered the building, forcing MSF teams to temporarily evacuate the hospital.

On December 29, a Ministry of Health ambulance was stopped and the occupants were threatened with violence, preventing them from collecting wounded people. On the same day, armed men returned to the Hôpital Communautaire with the intention of lynching a number of patients, while Ministry of Health staff were threatened.

Although the situation was defused on each of these occasions, the security of patients has been repeatedly threatened.

"The atmosphere is becoming increasingly tense with each of these 'visits,' as the attackers become more and more aggressive," said Thomas Curbillon, MSF's head of mission in Bangui. "It is totally unacceptable that health facilities are not being respected and are being invaded by armed people who constitute a threat to patients and staff. The insecurity and the gunfire in different areas, especially around the hospital, impede people's ability to move around. It hinders us from reaching wounded people, and also hinders patients who want to reach medical care," he said. "The sick and the wounded do not have the timely and secure access to medical care that they need, when they need it."

MSF reiterates the call it made on December 9 to all parties to the conflict in CAR to allow the sick and wounded to receive the medical care they need, and to immediately cease all violence against civilians, patients and medical staff in Bangui and throughout the country.

MSF has been working in Central African Republic since 1997, and now runs seven regular projects in Batangafo, Boguila, Carnot, Kabo, Ndéle, Paoua and Zémio, and four emergency projects in Bangui, Bossangoa, Bouca, and Bria. By the end of January, MSF hopes to begin activities in hospitals and Bangassou Uango. In total, MSF is providing free medical care to approximately 400,000 people in the country, with more than 100 international staff and 1,100 local staff working in seven hospitals, two health centers and 40 health posts across the country.

A child is weighed. 40,000 IDPs fleeing fighting and looting that shook the city since December 5, massed on the outskirts of Bangui airport. Where they survive without any assistance, latrines, shelter or food. The camp is a chaotic result of improvised tarpaulins, poles and umbrellas. Many displaced sleep in the open, exposed to mosquitoes and weather. Together with the ICRC, MSF is now the only active NGO in the camp. Local airport security are requisitioned. MSF set up a mobile clinic that will gradually become a fixed clinic, with observation services, minor surgery and maternity.
Samuel Hanryon/MSF