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CAR: MSF starts emergency intervention in Kouango amid ‘a terrible mix of violence, displacement and lack of basic healthcare’
After months of armed clashes, thousands of people living in Kouango, southern Central African Republic (CAR), started to cross the Ubangi River looking for safety in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in late 2014.
More than 20,000 locals fled to DRC and thousands more went to the nearby towns of Bambari and Grimari, north of Kouango. They were all looking for protection after the insecurity led to houses being burnt down, robberies and killings.
Access to healthcare “limited or non-existent”
While Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams in DRC took charge of the incoming refugees, an emergency team in CAR has started an intervention focused on women, children and victims of violence in Kouango town and surrounding areas.
The local population’s access to healthcare was very limited or non-existent, and there were also huge needs in terms of food, housing and sanitation.
Some of those who stayed in the area left their homes to seek refuge in the bush out of fear. “There are still some armed clashes, but simple rumours are enough to make people afraid and to flee their homes,” said Jana Brandt, coordinator of MSF’s emergency team.
“We have seen some areas where the houses have been burnt. People are hiding in the forest afraid of the presence of armed groups,” Brandt added.
Living in dire conditions
“People are living in very dire conditions that could get worse at any moment if the insecurity persists.On top of that, the rainy season is about to start and people living in forests are completely exposed to the harsh weather. Villagers even risk their houses being destroyed if they cannot come home soon to prepare them for the heavy rains to come.”
“What we are seeing here is an example of the situation that hundreds of thousands of people suffer in CAR every day: a terrible mix of violence, displacement and a lack of access to even basic healthcare,” she continued.
MSF mobile clinics
MSF’s mobile clinics are providing primary healthcare with outpatient consultations in different spots of the area and special attention is be given to cases of malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections.
In their first week, the MSF mobile clinics performed more than 400 consultations, the majority of which were for malaria. A twenty-four hour emergency room will also be set up in Kouango, and surgery will be available for urgent cases.
MSF activities in CAR
MSF has been working in the Central African Republic since 1997 and currently has more than 300 international staff and more than 2,000 national staff in the country. Since December 2013 when crisis engulfed the country, MSF has doubled its medical projects and currently runs around 20 projects, including several for Central African refugees in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In Equateur province (DRC), MSF teams have focused their assistance on nutrition and primary and secondary healthcare for Central African refugees. In Bili hospital, MSF is supporting the paediatric and maternity wards, as well as emergency surgery.
Almost 7,500 consultations were performed in March, half of them for CAR refugees. A vaccination campaign has been carried out through which 43,000 children were vaccinated against measles and around 20,000 against polio.