Murder, pillage and flight from the violence continue to be all too frequent in the lives of Central Africans.
Bangui. Displaced persons at Mpoko. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Rabih Mazboudi
Though the situation is complex and varies from area to area and from town to town, many thousands of people remain trapped in places of worship and in neighbourhoods under siege, especially in Bangui and Boda. Others have fled to different parts of the country or across the border into neighbouring nations.
"When you witness atrocities, when you receive threats, when violence and fear are such a big part of your daily life, sometimes you feel you have no choice but to flee," explained Jürg Eglin, head of the ICRC delegation in the Central African Republic, "either to another part of the country or across the border. But whether they leave or go, these people are civilians. Their lives must be spared and their property left alone."
A community leader in one of Bangui's encircled neighbourhoods observed that, for him and his neighbours, flight was no longer an option. "We've been trapped in here for months – no food, no medicine, nothing. And we're in constant fear of being killed." Entirely families are living in fear, struggling to find food and medical care, and wondering what has happened to missing loved ones.
Bangui Community Hospital. An injured man who was evacuated from the Boy Rabe displaced site by the ICRC arrives at the hospital.
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Rabih Mazboudi / cf-e-00841
Even where hospitals are still functioning, people are often too frightened to risk the trip there, no matter how sick they are. It was, Eglin said, essential that all injured and sick people had access to the care they required. "It's a matter of life or death. We call on all parties to the conflict to guarantee access to medical care for everyone in need of it and to spare all patients and medical staff in all circumstances." The ICRC has accompanied dozens of desperately ill people to medical facilities located in other neighbourhoods. Security is very poor throughout the country. Thousands continue to live at sites set aside for people forced to flee their homes. To make matters even worse, the rainy season has now begun and will last for another six months or so. The ICRC is working closely with the Central African Red Cross Society to improve conditions for the people living at these sites. At the Mpoko site in Bangui, for example, it is making daily deliveries of food and drinking water, organizing the collection of refuse and building latrines.
The armed conflict raging in the Central African Republic has caused large numbers of people to lose contact with their relatives, who have often fled to other parts of the country or into neighbouring countries. Many families have been split up and don't know whether their loved ones are alive or dead. This emotional burden is then added to the sheer struggle to survive.
The ICRC and the Central African Red Cross, as well as the National Societies of Chad, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville and Congo Kinshasa are continuing their efforts to help relatives separated by the fighting to get back in touch. In the Central African Republic, over 80 people have been put in contact with members of their family and three children returned to their families since the end of March.
The ICRC is in contact with the various parties to the conflict and the international forces in the country, and reminds all parties that people not or no longer involved in the fighting – in particular civilians and wounded fighters – must be protected and treated humanely at all times. Their property must also be left alone.
Facts and Figures
From 25 March to 27 April 2014, the ICRC worked closely with the Central African Red Cross to:
- carry out 380 operations in Bangui Community Hospital on people wounded in the fighting (gun-shot wounds, stabbings, shrapnel), and distribute food for two weeks to 250 patients;
- take over 100 injured to hospital and carried out nearly 4,200 medical consultations in Bangui and, using mobile clinics, in the Kaga-Bandoro area;
- deliver 300,000 litres of water every day to meet the needs of over 50,000 displaced people taking refuge at Bangui airport;
- distribute over 315,000 daily food rations to displaced people in Bangui;
- repair and maintain over 140 latrines for displaced people at Bangui airport and Boy-Rabe monastery;
- supply 240,000 litres of water a day to Ndélé and, on average, 26,000 litres a week to Ndélé hospital, using the country’s distribution network;
- distribute food and other essential items to over 4,300 displaced and local people in Ndélé.
The ICRC also visited over 300 detainees in Bangui to make sure that treatment and prison conditions met international standards, and distributed food daily where there were severe shortages.