Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams have brought lifesaving medical assistance to approximately 4,000 South Sudanese refugees living in deplorable conditions in Bambouti, a village in southeast Central African Republic (CAR).
The refugees, who are fleeing violence in South Sudan, have been completely cut off from any assistance for several months and have not had access to healthcare and clean water.
Most live in tiny make-shift dwellings made out of palm leaves that don’t offer any protection from the elements.
Many people explained to the MSF teams how after being harassed by armed men, they ran away from their villages in South Sudan. Many lost track of relatives during their exodus.
Lack of food, water and medicine
Atenina Koubaka, 38, fled last November, finally making it to Bambouti with her three children and her husband after months of travelling.
“Our main problems here are lack of food, water and medicines, that is at least until MSF arrived here”, she said.
“We will not leave until the conflict stops”, she added.
Some families lost members due to the harsh conditions in which they live. A few weeks after arriving in Bambouti, Martine Barifue, 28, lost her husband due to an illness that could not be treated.
She now works in the orchard of a local family to get some food, mostly rice and cassava, to feed her only son.
The logistical challenges for our emergency team have been enormous.
During a five-day intervention at the end of April, MSF’s emergency team carried out preventative activities to increase the immunisation of children and pregnant women against epidemic diseases.
In all, 449 children between six weeks and five years received pneumococcal and pentavalent vaccines, a combination of five vaccines in one.
A further 589 children between six months and 10 years were vaccinated against measles, and pregnant women received tetanus vaccinations.
The intervention not only targeted refugees, but also the Central African population in Bambouti which has been without access to healthcare for several years.
Bringing humanitarian assistance to Bambouti, which is located in a remote, inaccessible part of the Central African Republic, is extremely difficult.
Several armed groups operate in the area and the developing situation is unpredictable.
“The logistical challenges for our emergency team have been enormous,” says Maria Simon, country coordinator for MSF in CAR.
“With help from the local population we managed to rehabilitate the local landing strip which had not been operational for several years, to make sure our team and medical supplies arrive safely.”
Supporting local health centre
Since March, MSF has supported the re-opening of the local health centre through the donation of medicines and the training of local health workers. More than half of the consultations at the centre are related to malaria.
“We are expecting to see an increase in malaria cases as the rainy season starts soon, and the refugees don’t have proper shelter and mosquito nets,” says MSF emergency coordinator Juan Rodilla.
Many patients also suffer from respiratory infections and diarrhea.
MSF has left healthcare workers on the ground to prepare for the upcoming peak malaria season and will continue to monitor the situation in Bambouti.
The organisation has made every effort to address the extreme vulnerability of the population and urges other organisations to use all possible means to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance.
MSF in Central African Republic
MSF has been working in the Central African Republic since 1997, and currently has more than 300 international staff and over 2,000 locally hired staff in the country. Since December 2013, MSF has doubled its level of medical care in response to the crisis, with the number of projects increasing from 10 to 21, and has also carried out six interventions for Central African refugees in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.