Cindy Pierce | News24 Nigeria
Bangui – As presidential elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) draw closer, renewed fighting between communities has sparked tensions.
With approximately 20% of the country’s population having been displaced due to the conflict, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has stepped up its operations in the central African nation in order to provide much-needed healthcare.
Several health centres in the capital of Bangui have suspended their services due to insecurity in the area, leading to many more citizens seeking out MSF’s assistance.
Since renewed violence took hold in September 2015, the capital has seen an influx of internally displaced civilians (IDPs), with MSF providing consultation to more than 400 people at the organisation’s Mpoko structure in Bangui on a daily basis.
In an interview with News24, MSF’s Head of Mission in Bangui, Emmanuel Lampaert, expressed the organisation’s concerns at the dire situation faced by many of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
News24: What is the situation like currently in Bangui?
MSF: The situation is calm, with the city being mostly occupied by alliances. Political campaigns have started to take effect. Presidential campaigns in the lead-up to the elections are due to start on Monday (February 8).
News24: What can you say about some of your experiences with the internally displaced people in the field?
MSF: Even though it is calm, there are still some pockets of high insecurity across the region. Over 20% of the population is either displaced, have moved into other countries as refugees or are currently landlocked. The country has approximately 50 000 IDPs living in camps across the capital, with 450 000 IDPs being scattered across the country in total. MSF has set up a health centre in the Mpoko camp near the Bangui International Airport, with 25 to 30 smaller camps across the region. The IDPs are currently in desperate need of healthcare, water and food, with food insecurity being a big issue. There has also been an influx of new IDPs, with some refugees having returned from other countries being re-displaced following renewed violence in September.
Picture supplied by MSF
News24: How are the locals dealing with the violence?
MSF: The locals seem to be trying to figure out a way forward, with some help from local churches, NGOs, the MSF and market initiatives. Many are concerned about the rainy season coming up, as living conditions are bound to worsen. IDPs have been cooking with wood, which will soon lead to respiratory infections, particularly in babies. Rain will also lead to an increase in water-borne diseases, with malaria being a serious cause for concern.
News24: Other than mobile clinics, how else is MSF providing healthcare to civilians?
MSF: MSF has set up emergency response initiatives for the IDPs, with hospitals and ambulances having been set up in the area. MSF has also constructed five mobile clinics in churches in order to provide assistance to those in need. A pump system has also been set up from the Ubangi River for water.
News24: What are the main challenges faced by the MSF going forward?
MSF: Healthcare is the main challenge. Security for civilians is also desperately needed. IDPs are being faced by many barriers, including lack of finances, access to adequate free healthcare and violence between communities which is leading to more cultural intolerance. The distance between points has become an issue, specifically where MSF needs to provide water or healthcare services. We need to enhance networking in order to combat this.
Picture supplied by MSF