Armed gangs put CAR humanitarian aid at risk


Uncontrolled armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) are spreading chaos, leaving the civilian population without urgently needed humanitarian attention, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) (Doctors with Borders) facilities have been looted and its teams have suffered robberies and threats since the conflict started. The new Séléka government should assume its responsibility and re-establish control over armed groups operating in locations across the country, the international medical and humanitarian organisation said.

MSF medical teams have been evacuated from the towns of Batangafo and Kabo due to robberies and general insecurity and all hospital and medical activities have been suspended.

As MSF is the only humanitarian organisation providing medical care in these areas, this means a population of more than 130 000 will be unattended in the coming days or weeks.

MSF has suffered similar incidents in Boguila where international staff was evacuated. The hospital is still operational with a skeleton team. The insecurity has meant MSF is also unable to access areas where it knows there are medical needs, such as Bossangoa where the hospital has been looted and Ministry of Health staff fled in fear.

In Bangui, after March 24, when Séléka authorities took control of CAR, MSF facilities were looted on a number of occasions, resulting in significant losses of equipment, drugs, cash and vehicles. Since the start of the Séléka offensive, armed theft has resulted in substantial economic losses for MSF.

More importantly, humanitarian and medical activities for the population in need have been blocked.
“MSF remains concerned for the well-being and health of the population. We have to keep in mind that in the best of peaceful times they go through daily hardships to survive. Even before recent events mortality rates related to preventable and treatable diseases (mainly malaria) were already above the emergency threshold in many areas of the country. Now ongoing insecurity is exasperating their already fragile coping mechanisms,” said Sylvain Groulx, MSF Head of Mission in Bangui.

MSF teams in the capital Bangui area still providing medical support at one hospital. Although the situation in the capital has stabilised, recent confrontations and shootings in some areas mean there are still injured patients who require care. Other difficulties are the lack of water and electricity and qualified medical staff.

MSF has called on the Séléka government to better control armed individuals and their own forces in the affected areas affected to cease threats and armed attacks on humanitarian and medical workers and structures so the population can receive humanitarian assistance. MSF fears that if this is not carried out there will be dramatic consequences Groulx said.