By HIPPOLYTE MARBOUA AND CARLEY PETESCH | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Bodies lie in the streets of Zemio, the stench filling the air as homes burn and thousands flee the Central African Republic town recently hit by violence between warring militias.
More than 15,000 people have been displaced from the southeastern town that had been spared until last week, as sectarian fighting that has devastated the country since 2013 has worsened in parts of the central and southeastern regions.
More than 300 people have been killed and 100,000 displaced since mid-May.
Many in Zemio are unable to get medical care because of the fighting, according to Doctors Without Borders, which runs an HIV program there. More than 9,000 people have sought refuge at a health center and the Catholic mission and between 6,000 and 11,000 others have fled, according to the medical charity.
“The neighborhood next to our base has been burned down, as have other parts of the town,” said Mia Hejdenberg, head of the Doctors Without Borders mission. “We were able to work this weekend to provide medical aid and logistical support to the most vulnerable, but the fighting started again.”
Eight wounded people have made their way to a health center, but Hejdenberg warned that many more likely cannot reach such places.
Six bodies found in the streets nearby have been buried, said a priest at the local Catholic mission, Jean-Alain Zembi. The odor in the air is terrible, Zemio Mayor Rosalie Nawira said.
Violence broke out in Central African Republic in 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital, Bangui. Christian anti-Balaka militias fought back, resulting in thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Seleka rebels continue to fight Christian militias around the country. Some Seleka factions also have been fighting each other or local defense groups as tensions build.
Doctors Without Borders has had to downsize its team in the impoverished country because of the resurging violence. It is difficult to assess “the shifting allegiances and groups,” the group said Thursday, adding that the “reading of the dynamic is quite difficult.”