Villages Burned and Emptied in Central African Republic
The residents, some 25,000 people, have all fled into the bush over the past two months to escape further attacks from the country’s army and ongoing fighting between the soldiers and a rebel group intent on overthrowing the government. They are among some 150,000 people displaced by the conflict and desperate for help.
This week, an IRC team that included medical and water and sanitation experts traveled to Central African Republic’s volatile northwest to get a first hand look at the crisis with a view to starting up emergency programs.
“Every single village on this road was burned to the ground and virtually nothing is left. Homes, schools, health clinics, everything’s been destroyed and looted,” says Bob Kitchen, who is leading the IRC mission.
Yesterday, at the sound of an approaching aid convoy, villagers emerged from hiding and were eager to tell their story.
“They all had to flee quickly, so they’ve lost everything. They have nothing,” says Kitchen. “They’re living out in the open bush where it gets very cold at night. They have no food or clean water. Most of them are sick and can’t access health care. They want to go home, they want to rebuild their homes and they want to plant crops, but they know they can’t because it’s not safe. They’re in a very precarious situation.”
Kitchen says the only hospital in the area is in Kaga Bandoro, but with severe shortages of equipment, drugs and medial staff, it functions more like a rural health post, capable of seeing only 20 patients a day and providing very limited treatment. The facility is also forced to charge for services, but few families can afford the fee.
He says the water situation is alarming. “We were taken to a spring that was considered safe, but the water was the color of milk and the quality was terrible. To no surprise, nearly everyone in the area has diarrhea.”
The IRC plans to launch emergency health and water services, distribute needed supplies in the region, and launch other critical programs as soon as possible.
Kitchen says clean water is needed in the places where people have fled, so the IRC is ready to dig wells and rehabilitate springs that will meet emergency needs, but also improve water quality and assist in irrigation in the long-term. He says the IRC also hopes to rehabilitate the Kaga Bandoro hospital, equip the facility, provide medicines and conduct primary health care training to improve services. As security permits, the IRC would also assist in rebuilding shelters and rural health posts.