Central African Republic: “We urgently need to help the sick and wounded”

Interview with Serge Saint Louis, MSF head of mission in Bangui.
ALT Francois Beda /MSFAs the opposition group Seleka took power in CAR in March 2013, MSF teams support surgery activities at the community hospital in Bangui where victims of violence receive medical treatment.

Since last Monday MSF staffs have been supporting the Bangui Community Hospital, the only hospital still functioning in the CAR capital.

“The fighting began on Friday, March Friday 22 and we couldn’t do anything, no one could be admitted to the hospital, and that continued for the next couple of days,” says Serge St-Louis, MSF Head of Mission France in Bangui. “On Monday March 25 we brought medical supplies and medicines to the hospital which has almost no supplies.”

Up until Monday, most of the wounded seen at the Community hospital were suffering from gunshot wounds. From Tuesday onwards, the MSF team has been seeing more injuries from road accident than gunshot wounds. Between March 22nd and the 26th, 173 injured were admitted to the community hospital, 6 were operated on and 55 hospitalized patients are awaiting surgery. The team has witnessed 5 deaths in-hospital and 23 bodies have been brought to the hospital morgue.

The civilian and military hospital where MSF is working is currently being guarded by Seleka. They are providing security to the hospital and in the neighborhood.
“Our priority for the coming days is to start surgery and monitor patients post-op. On Thursday, a surgical team arrived and will support the operating theater.”

The security situation in Bangui is gradually improving
MSF teams began circulating in the city Wednesday and noted the military presence has diminished but that Seleka forces continue to occupy the roundabouts and main roads of the city. “There is less gunfire heard in the streets. The situation seems to be changing in the right direction. Since yesterday, people have started to come out onto the street. Small stalls and smaller markets have reopened in some areas allowing the replenishment of fresh food and basic necessities. But prices have doubled.” Department stores, supermarkets and petrol stations in the city center are still closed, even those who were not looted. Insecurity remains a problem after dark, people are afraid and do not dare go out in the streets after 7 p.m.

Need water and electricity to Bangui
The lack of water and electricity in health facilities means MSF cannot treat the wounded properly. “The urgency now is water ... The concern for us is that water has still not been restored. We are in a city without water ... electricity is erratic which prevents hospitals and health centers from running properly.”

Other projects limited in the rest of the country
MSF projects in Paoua and Carnot are operational, but in a limited way. All external activities at health centers have been suspended for the moment. The teams have not been reduced but MSF expects that Seleka will soon take control of the town of Paoua, located in the northwest of the country. Carnot, in the south-west of the country, is still quiet for the moment.