Central African Republic hospital at risk of attack


Some 5,000 people seeking refuge in a hospital in Central African Republic (CAR) risk being attacked by armed groups, a medical charity said amid ongoing clashes.

About 10,000 people ran to the hospital in Batangafo, north of Bangui, last week, after armed groups looted and burned thousands of homes, three camps hosting 27,000 displaced and a market in the city.

Half of those camped out in the hospital grounds joined others in the bush or other villages, Omar Ahmed Abenza, head of mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in CAR, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“People don’t feel safe anywhere in the city,” he said, adding MSF staff working there regularly heard gunshots and grenades in and around Batangafo.

CAR has faced near-constant armed conflict since 2013, when a mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition overthrew then-president Francois Bozize, prompting reprisals from Christian and animist ‘anti-balaka’ militias.

Despite electing a new leader in 2016, the country remains mired in tit-for-tat inter-communal violence and political instability.

CAR is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for humanitarian workers, with MSF suffering an average of three attacks a month on its facilities, vehicles and staff last year.

Abenza said the hospital cannot guarantee the safety of people sleeping in hospital grounds in temporary shelters built from carpets, clothing and other belongings.
“For us it’s almost impossible to control who goes in and out. We can’t deny access,” he said.
“Our security is basically ensured through constant conversations with leaders of armed groups.”

The situation is also dire in Bambari in central CAR, where there were clashes last week, with many people “too scared to leave home to seek medical treatment”, he said.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said 1.9 million people in CAR do not have enough to eat – the highest figure since 2014, when the country was rocked by widespread sectarian violence.
“Fresh, ever more harrowing, reports continue to emerge suggesting only continuing exacerbation of an already profoundly grave situation,” WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said.
“Prompt international and regional attention and action are urgently needed to ward off a human tragedy.”