Central African Republic: A year punctuated by emergencies

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From August through October 2000, a large influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prompted a rapid response. MSF teams aided about 10,000 refugees, providing vaccinations, epidemiological surveillance, training of health workers, and health education. Then, in late May 2001, a coup attempt temporarily paralyzed the capital, Bangui, and put in motion a large wave of displaced people leaving the capital for refuge in the south and in DRC. Mortars, gunfire, and tanks resounded for several days. MSF volunteers were initially unable to leave their compound; soon after, part of the team was evacuated, while the remaining staff began responding to emergency medical needs. Before movement around the city became possible, MSF treated people at its compound. An MSF "full charter," a cargo plane with an emergency team and emergency medical supplies, arrived in early June. MSF assisted at Hospital de l'Amitié, where all medical activity had stopped in the days following the attempted coup, and in urban health centers. MSF also monitored the humanitarian situation of people fleeing south, and provided medi-cal aid and basic relief items for families when needed. The situation began to stabilize in July. At the time of the coup, regular MSF activities were suspended temporarily. By late June, the violence had receded somewhat but the general situation of the population continued to worsen and instability remained high. Access to health services, in a critical state even before the coup, deteriorated. In this context, MSF focused on restarting its ongoing program as soon as movement was possible. This maternal health project covers pre- and postnatal care, delivery, Cesarean sections, and training maternity staff in three maternity wards in the city, all aimed at about 150,000 women of childbearing age. A sleeping sickness project planned for the region of Haut-Mbomou has been postponed until late fall 2001. MSF has been working in the Central African Republic since 1997. International staff: 11 National staff:17