BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC/NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 22, 2017—Following a violent, armed robbery on the night of Nov. 20 that threatened the lives of its workers, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) evacuated all 58 of its Central African and international staff from Bangassou, a town in the southeast of the country that is largely under the control of various armed groups affiliated with the Anti-Balaka factions.
In the Bangassou region, half a million people were relying almost entirely on MSF to provide medical care. Following other attacks, most health centers in the area that are not supported by MSF are empty, lacking staff and the most basic drugs and medical supplies.
Frederic Lai Manantsoa, MSF country director, gave the following statement:
"We had the will and the means to stay in the Bangassou area, but we cannot put the lives of our staff on the line when the medical structures where we work and our staff are threatened.
"Today, the 30 children under five who were in intensive care in the Bangassou hospital will not be seen by doctors or nurses. The 26 patients in urgent need of surgery will be left in their beds. The only outside witnesses of what is happening on the ground in the area are UN troops and some missionaries. The Bangassou population has already started leaving the city, including critically ill patients from the hospital.
"Facing such huge, desperate needs, an international humanitarian organization like ours should try to remain in the area as long as possible. Leaving the population utterly abandoned is a painful admission that we are unable to bring humanitarian relief to one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world today because of attacks on our staff."
MSF has worked in Central African Republic since 1997 and remains operational in 10 locations across the country: Bria, Bambari, Alindao, Batangafo, Kabo, Bossangoa, Boguila, Paoua, Carnot and Bangui. Last year, MSF carried out one million medical consultations, vaccinated 500,000 children for various diseases, performed 9,000 surgeries and assisted 21,000 births in the country. Since armed conflict intensified earlier this year, MSF continues to bring medical care to people living behind the rapidly evolving front lines that divide the country. However, MSF has had to shift its focus in four locations (including Bangassou and Zemio) from providing health care to the general population to providing emergency relief to people affected directly or indirectly by the violence.