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Central African Republic: Tens of thousands afraid to leave the bush

25-11-2013 Operational Update No 13/07

In the Central African Republic, tens of thousands of people who dare not leave the bush because of the lack of security are vulnerable to malaria and diseases caused by consuming unsafe water.

"Even though the authorities of the Central African Republic and the international community are working to boost the presence of security forces in the provinces, tens of thousands of people have been forced by the lack of security to take refuge in the bush, where their living and hygiene conditions are appalling," said Georgios Georgantas, who heads the ICRC's delegation in the country. "The authorities have a responsibility to re-establish public order. When law and order is restored, health care and other public services should resume, and living conditions should improve."

"The current situation is extremely worrying. People who have taken refuge in the bush often have to drink poor-quality or contaminated water," said Mr Georgantas. "Finding something to eat is also a problem for many. These living conditions make the displaced people, especially young children and pregnant women, extremely vulnerable to disease. In much of the country, however, health care is unavailable."

To help people finding themselves in this situation in the Kaga Bandoro area, in the central part of the country, the ICRC has opened two mobile clinics. More than 5,000 people, including 390 expectant mothers and almost 1,000 children under five years of age stricken with malaria, have been examined in the past month. "Most of the people who come in for treatment are suffering mainly from malaria, respiratory infections due to cold nights, or diarrhoea caused by drinking unsafe water," said Dr Bonaventure Bazirutwabo, who is in charge of the ICRC's health programmes in the country.

The ICRC also has a community-based malaria programme under way that is of assistance to 500 people every week. Malaria is the leading cause of death in the Central African Republic. "In addition to providing people with direct support, in partnership with the Central African Red Cross Society we raise awareness among all armed men of the fact that they must not target medical personnel or facilities," said Dr Bazirutwabo.

The production of corn, millet, sorghum and cowpeas has been adequate this year. "We remain concerned by the lack of security, which prevents small traders from selling food products, the price of which is plummeting, and to obtain in exchange basic necessities such as sugar, salt and soap, the price of which is soaring," said Mr Georgantas.

The ICRC has distributed one-month rations of corn, beans, cooking oil and salt to host families in Yaloké and to families dispersed by violence, particularly in the Gaga area some 200 kilometres north-west of Bangui. Around 12,000 people received the food aid in Bossambele, Yaloké, Zawa and Békadili.

Over the past month, together with the Central African Red Cross Society, the ICRC has:

  • organized the transfer of 12 war-wounded patients to the community hospital of Bangui and 14 other patients to the hospital in Kaga Bandoro;
  • reunited 14 children with their families;
  • visited more than 100 people held at the Ngaragba detention centre in Bangui;
  • given more than 55,000 kilos of chemicals to the national water board for treating the water used by 400,000 people living in and around Bangui;
  • built 64 emergency latrines in Bossangoa, and organized hygiene information sessions attended by more than 37,000 people;
  • provided 250,000 litres of water every day in Ndélé for more than 10,000 people through the water board;
  • built seven latrines and upgraded six borehole pumps in Bouca;
  • attended to the needs of nearly 2,000 people in Obo and Birao, in the east of the country.

For further information, please contact:
Nadia Dibsy, ICRC Bangui, tel: +236 75 64 30 07
Jean-Yves Clémenzo, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17


Photos

Yaloké, Central African Republic. Displaced people and host families gather at an ICRC/Central African Red Cross distribution point where they will receive corn, beans, salt and cooking oil. 

Yaloké, Central African Republic. Displaced people and host families gather at an ICRC/Central African Red Cross distribution point where they will receive corn, beans, salt and cooking oil.
© ICRC / Serge Belalengui

In Yaloké's central market, which is nearly empty, women sell local products such as cassava (manioc) and peanut paste.  

In Yaloké's central market, which is nearly empty, women sell local products such as cassava (manioc) and peanut paste.
© ICRC / Serge Belalengui

Yaloké. Displaced people and host families receive corn, beans, salt and cooking oil at a joint ICRC/Central African Red Cross distribution. 

Yaloké. Displaced people and host families receive corn, beans, salt and cooking oil at a joint ICRC/Central African Red Cross distribution.
© ICRC / Serge Belalengui