With fighting ongoing and widespread humanitarian needs still unmet, the situation in Central African Republic’s Ouham province remains critical, particularly around the towns of Bossangoa and Bouca. A recent spike in violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in search of safety, but the conditions in the makeshift camps fir displaced people are inhabiting remain precarious at best.
Much more humanitarian assistance is clearly needed but has yet to materialize. In Bouca, about 700 houses, or half of the town, have been burned down. Around 500 people are still seeking shelter at the school of the Catholic Mission, while some Muslim families are sheltered on the local Imam’s compound.
In Bossangoa, where the rainy season is in full swing, an estimated 28,000 people are seeking refuge on the Catholic Mission’s compound and teams there are fighting to prevent the area from turning into a swamp.
"It is almost two months now since people fled their homes for fear of their lives and settled here," says Ellen Van Der Velden, MSF Country Coordinator in CAR. "Now they are still in this makeshift camp with a population that is equal to a small town. Still there is not enough shelter, nor food, nor water and adequate sanitation available.
"The possibility of related disease outbreaks increases with every day passing and the nutritional situation in the camp is worrying," she continued. "We do what we can, especially to respond to the medical needs in this area, but aid agencies finally need to shift to emergency mode."
While the population moves a bit more freely in and out of the makeshift camp in Bossangoa during the day now, the vast majority still returns to the camps at night because they are the only places they feel safe.
"We see more people move out of the makeshift camps to work on their fields or go and sell their produce on the market during the day," says van der Velden. "They have to, it is their basis for survival. Yet, they are still too afraid to return to their homes permanently, out of fear of new attacks."
In addition to the people in the camps, she adds, "we are [also] extremely concerned for all the people who we do not reach, the majority, actually, of those who fled. We believe that there are hundreds of thousands who have not made it to any of the camps but fled to the bush and have to fend for themselves. These people need all the help they can get but currently, they are on their own."
Besides MSF’s seven "regular" programs in Paoua, Carnot, Zemio, Boguila, Batangafo, Kabo, and Ndélé, the organization is also running emergency activities in Bossangoa, Bria, and Bouca. In Bossangoa, MSF is providing emergency medical care in the hospital, as well as health care and emergency humanitarian support in three makeshift displacement camps, including assistance with water and sanitation, and nutritional support. In Bouca, MSF offers emergency medical care, primary health care, obstetrics, mobile clinics, and referrals to the hospital in Batangafo. Activities in Bria focus on pediatric activities for children younger than 15.