Central African Republic: One whole month just to get to Bria hospital

MSF has been running a paediatric programme for children aged between 0 and 15 years at Bria hospital in east Central African Republic (CAR) since August 2013. After eight-year old Ousman had a fairly minor accident, his health gradually deteriorated.

Former Seleka coalition rebels had seized control of Bria and, in August 2013, MSF opened a paediatric programme in the town. The initial purpose was to spend a few months in the conflict-ridden region, assisting with paediatric care and providing an emergency response during the seasonal malaria peak.

But the country was becoming mired in a cycle of violence and had only limited resources for reconstructing or reinforcing its medical facilities, so MSF prolonged its operations in Bria. Now, due to the health situation, the acute shortage of healthcare provision and scarcity of international and domestic humanitarian and medical agencies—not only in Bria, but in CAR as a whole—, MSF has decided to maintain its programme indefinitely.

Ousman is eight years old and the youngest of Adou Mahato’s eight children. They belong to the Fulani community, a people of nomadic herdsmen. Ousman and his family live in the bush around 60 km from Bria.

Ousman was playing with some other children when a branch injured his left knee. To begin with, thinking the wound would heal by itself, his father wasn’t particularly worried. He also didn’t want to give his son the medicines sold by peddlers who occasionally pass through their camp.

The days went by. Ousman’s knee was still swollen and the wound wasn’t getting better. Adou Mahato decided to take his son to Bria hospital, which he’d heard about but had never seen.

The family did not have enough money for the transport they needed to take them there. So, Adou Mahato decided to sell one of his oxen for 20,000 CFA (around 30 euros) to pay a motorcycle taxi to get him and his son to Bria. It was a month before everything was ready for the trip and, by the time Ousman and his father arrived at the hospital, the infection had spread through his left leg causing septic arthritis, an extremely serious inflammation.

Since Ousman has been at the hospital, he has gained weight and is feeling a lot better. Everything is so new to him and his father—sleeping in a bed, being in a town. The young boy is on antibiotics. He has now been transferred to Bangui in the Emergency NGO paediatric hospital and, if all goes well, he’ll be running around again very soon.