Bangui - Following a three-month presence in Kouango in the south of the country, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has now ended its emergency intervention for displaced people in the area. During that time, the MSF emergency team carried out more than 1,100 medical examinations in its mobile clinics and cared for 362 patients in Kouango hospital.
Although the needs of the people remain high and access to healthcare remains a concern, MSF has, following its three-month emergency intervention, observed an increase in the presence and mobilisation of other humanitarian agencies in Kouango. The MSF emergency team, Eureca, used for short-term interventions and temporary targeted measures, has thus been able to pull out - in readiness to respond to other crisis situations elsewhere in the country. Local stakeholders and the community had already been made aware of the temporary nature of the intervention.
Medical indicators collected by MSF from the results of a survey on nutrition and mortality reveal that an emergency intervention of the type already provided by Eureca was not currently warranted. “The indicators are below emergency thresholds and do not suggest an acute medical crisis,” said Isaac Alcalde, MSF emergency team coordinator. Furthermore, some people who had fled into the scrubland are returning, which is an encouraging sign for Kouango. The MSF teams will, however, continue to monitor how the situation develops.
At the end of 2014, thousands of people living in the Kouango area, in the south of the Central African Republic (CAR), began to cross the Ubangi River to seek refuge in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after armed clashes between rival militias in the area. Thousands of people fled to the DRC, while more still escaped to the nearby towns of Bambari and Grimari, north of Kouango. They were all looking for safety following months of violence and killings, as well as robberies and looting and seeing their homes burned to the ground.
The MSF emergency team in CAR responded by opening a support centre to look after women, children and victims of violence in Kouango and the surrounding areas. With access to healthcare either limited or almost non-existent, MSF also launched mobile clinics on the routes to Bianga, Grimari, Ndoro, Pende and Zouhougou as a means of providing basic healthcare services. The MSF team also provided support for the emergency department and patients hospitalised in Kouango hospital to help care for the most serious cases.
In just three months, the MSF team had carried out more than 1,100 medical examinations in its mobile clinics. The vast majority -some 81 per cent - of patients seen were children under five (5) years of age. Women also benefited from antenatal care and reproductive and sexual health advice.
MSF referred 362 patients to Kouango hospital, mainly to the paediatric department (55%) and the maternity ward (26%). The team helped 47 women to give birth and carried out five emergency caesareans. Logistical support was also provided to the hospital, including the installation of water points. Lastly, MSF donated medical supplies and drugs and gave health centre workers a bonus to ensure free healthcare for a month.
MSF has been working in the Central African Republic since 1997 and currently has more than 300 international staff and more than 2,000 Central African workers in the country. From December 2013, MSF doubled its medical projects in response to the crisis, and it currently runs some 20 projects, including several for Central African refugees living in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Since 2014, MSF teams have also maintained a presence in Bambari which, like Kouango, is in the Oauka prefecture. There, they manage mobile clinics as well as support a health clinic in the town.