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CAR: Ongoing violence in Bambari area
The deteriorating security situation in Bambari, Central African Republic (CAR), is taking a toll on local residents and hindering aid agencies' abilities to respond to their urgent health needs.
While the barricades set up in recent days have now been dismantled, violence by armed groups and the armed robbery of civilians are still a daily occurrence.
In recent days a group of armed men even forced their way into Bambari hospital, sending patients running. The atmosphere in the town remains tense and the residents of Bambari are living in fear.
MSF’s efforts hindered by violence
In this situation, providing medical care to those who need it is challenging, even for an impartial humanitarian organisation such as Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Our team was forced to temporarily restrict its movements after some team members became trapped by violence on the far side of the river which bisects Bambari.
The team has since restarted its medical activities, running mobile clinics for both the Christian and Muslim communities, with a focus on those most urgently in need.
As well as running mobile clinics, our team has been following up 12 patients with violence-related injuries at Bambari hospital, run by the Ministry of Health and other humanitarian organisations.
Most had wounds from grenades and gunshots, including one patient with multiple wounds, three with severe abdominal wounds requiring laparotomies (a large incision through the abdominal wall), and three with fractures. One patient died.
The insecurity is having an impact both on people’s ability to access medical facilities, as well as aid organisations’ ability to provide assistance. For some days, our team was unable to reach the five health centres which it supports.
However, the team had managed to stock the centres with dressing and stabilisation kits for treating wounded patients in case of major needs prior to the insecurity.
Reaching out to rural Bambari
The situation is also tense in the area around Bambari, where medical care is even less accessible. An MSF mobile team was able to reach Ngakobo, 66 km south of Bambari, where some 9,500 displaced people are sheltering.
In two days, our team provided 427 consultations in the camp and in a nearby village, mainly for patients with malaria and respiratory tract infections. We have also launched a response to provide and increase adequate supplies of clean water in the camp.
“On the way to Ngakobo, there was such a contrast between the beauty of the landscape and the emptiness of the ghost villages, left in ruins and emptied of people because of the attacks,” said Martin Braaksma, MSF’s head of mission in CAR.
“In other villages, residents are too afraid to go to the fields to work. People are trapped by the violence.”
The medical effects of the violence come on top of people’s regular health needs and the lack of free quality medical care in CAR. MSF is currently running six ‘malaria points’ to diagnose and treat malaria, which is one of the main health problems in CAR, particularly for children.
MSF has been working in Bambari since May 2014. In January, our team treated 3,231 patients for malaria in the region, more than 40 percent of whom were children under the age of five.