The situation for the civilian population of Central African Republic reached a new low this week, with clashes in Alindao on May 8, a large-scale attack on Bangassou on May 13 and fighting in Bria starting on May 15. Thousands of people are displaced, with little assistance. Signs of religious and ethnic-based targeting are becoming visible. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), as one of the only humanitarian actors still on the ground, describes the violence and raising concerns about a quickly deteriorating situation.
While the situation calmed down in Bangassou on May 15, rivalries between self-defence forces and ex-Seleka coalition dissidents led to an outbreak of violence in Bria, a town where MSF runs a pediatric program.
The Ministry of Health, International Medical Corps and MSF teams present in the town launched a contingency plan and, between May 15 and May 18, and a total of 44 casualties received treatment in Bria hospital. An MSF surgical team arrived yesterday to assist with treating the wounded in the operating theatre.
Seeking protection from the fighting, thousands of the town’s inhabitants have fled. Families have assembled in the hospital compound in the hope that the belligerents will respect its neutrality and protected status. Close to 15,000 people have taken refuge in the displaced persons camp PK3, which is now so full it can no longer cope. During rainy season and with malaria at its peak, new arrivals find themselves exposed to extremely precarious living conditions, poor hygiene and inadequate access to water. MSF’s teams have increased mobile clinics in the camp so that those who have fled can get medical care.
- 'We fear for the worst for Bangassou': An MSF physician on how a Central African Republic town has turned into a battlefield
Forced suspension of critical medical activities
Meanwhile, the vaccination program planned for this week has been disrupted. This means that 6,000 children below the age of five in the area continue to be deprived of a major preventive health measure.
Added to the fighting are attacks on places of worship, businesses and local government buildings associated to one of the warring parties. These are stirring up ethnic and religious divides in Bria. Those actions are fuelling the cycle of reprisals and attacks against civilians that broke out in the east of the country months ago.
In Bangassou, the situation has calmed down in town yet remains volatile. About 7,000 persons are still displaced in the church compound. MSF routine activities have restarted at the hospital to meet the needs of a large caseload of patients, many of them with severe medical conditions, notably due to malaria. MSF teams are running mobile clinics to bring medical care to people displaced by the violence.
Last week, clashes in Alindao caused displacement of population towards Bambari. MSF teams in the Bambari hospital treated six wounded displaced people. Another team is on its way to evaluate the situation of people displaced in and around Alindao, as well as in Mobaye.