Central African Republic: Fighting forces people to flee and makes access to health care more difficult
GENEVA, Switzerland, September 25, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ — People in and around Bossangoa (population 70,000) and Bouca (20,000), in Ouham prefecture north-west of the capital Bangui, have been hard hit by continuing armed clashes. The Central African Red Cross Society and the ICRC are working together to bring them aid.
“Thousands of people have seen their villages set ablaze and had to flee into the bush or to safer places such as school buildings or places of worship,” said Christian Mehl, an ICRC delegate.
Central African Red Cross volunteers and ICRC personnel are removing casualties and administering first aid. On 12 September, 13 seriously injured people who could not be treated on the spot were transferred by aircraft to the referral hospital in Bangui, where the ICRC provided them with care.
More than 50 bodies had to be buried after they were identified, or after steps were taken to make them identifiable later. Enough medical supplies to treat 50 patients were provided for the prefecture hospital in Bossangoa, which is run by another humanitarian organization.
Helping displaced people cope with the emergency
In Bouca, where the Red Cross is one of the few humanitarian organizations still on the ground, 4,000 people who lost everything when their homes were destroyed by fire or looted were given emergency food aid and kitchen utensils, mattresses, mosquito nets, tarpaulins, blankets and other items on 22 and 23 September.
In addition, since the month of June:
● more than 9,000 people who had to flee violence committed by armed men in the Nana-Gribizi and Ouham areas have been given food aid;
● over 1,700 people who lost everything when their villages between Bouca and Batangafo and in Dékoa were set on fire have been given help enabling them to build temporary shelters;
● almost 3,000 people harmed by violence in the Ndélé area, in the north of the country, have been given food, seed and farming tools.
The daily challenge of obtaining health care
In situations of armed violence, maintaining people’s access to health care has to be a priority. It can often make the difference between life and death for the people concerned.
In the Central African Republic, the health-care system, already precarious before the violence that occurred at the beginning of the year, has now been bled dry. “The vast majority of health-care centres outside Bangui are closed,” said Bonaventure Bazirutwabo, the ICRC’s health coordinator in the country. “Medical supplies and ambulances have been damaged or stolen, and they have not been replaced. Trained medical staff have withdrawn to Bangui. There are only seven surgeons in this country of over four million people, and all of them are in Bangui.”
To deal with this catastrophic situation in the Nana-Gribizi area, which is home to more than 130,000 people and where there are no other humanitarian organizations, the ICRC has set up mobile medical teams. Each team, which consists of a doctor, two nurses, two midwives and six first-aid workers, travels up and down three of the main roads in the prefecture every week to provide people living in the remotest places with care.
“In barely three months, care has already been provided for 24,000 people, including more than 2,700 pregnant women and many young children,” said Mr Bazirutwabo. “In the villages that are visited, these mobile clinics represent the only chance the people have to receive health care.”
The most serious cases are taken to the hospital in Kaga-Bandoro, where ICRC staff recently started major renovation work. Patients requiring higher levels of care have to be transferred by air or by road to the referral hospital in Bangui. This has happened to 25 patients over the past three months. The ICRC has pledged to support the surgical unit of the Bangui hospital, where the lack of a functioning radiology unit underscores the difficulties faced by that facility.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)