Voices from the Front Line in CAR

Paul Van Der Laan Doctor, from Holland In December, when fighting broke out at Bossangoa hospital between the anti-Balaka and the Seleka, we built a fence around the hospital to make sure people were safe. This was the last place where Muslims and Christians co-existed. We had quite a few surgical patients then that got wounded in the bush but were afraid to leave. They had been shot two weeks before and the result was often infection and un-repairable damage, and the only solution was to amputate for them to survive. People were often carried here, and didn’t take the roads because it was too dangerous. It was very difficult.
Ton Koene
Click to hide Text

 

More than a year has passed since the coup d’état in Central African Republic (CAR), and fighting between armed groups, the Seleka and the anti-Balaka, has plunged the country into chaos.

People from the town of Bossangoa and its surrounding area among the most affected by the conflict. Homes and fields were burned, and many people were killed or injured.

The Christian population took refuge at the local Catholic Mission, and Muslim civilians fled first to a school known as Ecole Liberte, and then by truck convoys to relative safety in Chad.

Here, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff providing medical care in Bossangoa recall their experiences during the turmoil.

Nelly-Hortensia Mayah Nurse, from Bangui "I started working on a mobile clinic out of Bossangoa in December [2013]. We would travel miles to small villages and find them empty, because people had fled to the bush. We met many people who had lost family members, or had their homes and fields burned by the Seleka. Sometimes we would find people with serious burns, gunshot wounds, or cut by machetes. When we would arrive in a village we would send out the word we were there, for people to come out of the bush and be treated."
Ton Koene
Moustapha Adjaro Nursing Assistant, from Bossangoa I am an orphan from Bossangoa, and I returned from the capital when the conflict started. I am working in the Muslim area of Ecole Liberte. There are many reasons for my departure. One is that my brothers and grandfather were slaughtered here. Also, Muslims are not wanted here. If the situation were okay I would stay and work. But to stay here alone, this is a risk. I just want to move to save my life. I was here when trucks came to take my wife and kids to Chad. I’m still waiting my turn. They promised to come right back, but its been a couple months. Moustapha was evacuated from Bossangoa to Chad with the rest of the local Muslim community on April 11, 2014
Ton Koene
Elizabeth Rolfes Doctor, from Germany I remember one woman who was in labor in a village for several days. She was afraid to come to Bossangoa hospital because of the violence. She was treated in the village but didn’t deliver, so they tried to tear the baby out which didn’t work. In the end she walked forty kilometers to the hospital. The baby died after one or two days, and the woman was horribly injured. Now she has long-term consequences from her fear. Her baby is dead and she has a fistula.
Ton Koene
Paul Van Der Laan Doctor, from Holland In December, when fighting broke out at Bossangoa hospital between the anti-Balaka and the Seleka, we built a fence around the hospital to make sure people were safe. This was the last place where Muslims and Christians co-existed. We had quite a few surgical patients then that got wounded in the bush but were afraid to leave. They had been shot two weeks before and the result was often infection and un-repairable damage, and the only solution was to amputate for them to survive. People were often carried here, and didn’t take the roads because it was too dangerous. It was very difficult.
Ton Koene
Jean-Didier Longa-Ikona Nurse, refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo I was born in Kinshasa but when the war came I decided to cross over to CAR. I am alone here. When the conflict broke out around Bossangoa there were no humanitarian organizations. We would only see military vehicles. We would show people our MSF clothes so they would be convinced in what we did. We would tell them we were there to assist in their grief, and in the clinic neither gun nor knives are allowed. We would say their family could get treatment safely here just in case the situation became serious. Some people used to accept but others refused to believe us, saying that if they came to us, they would get shot.
Ton Koene