Central African Republic: Population caught up in armed violence
GENEVA, Switzerland, September 20, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic and the humanitarian consequences for the population are deeply troubling. The current upsurge in fighting is the deadliest the country has experienced since March.
"Civilians are the primary victims of the violence," said Stefan Bigler, who heads a team of staff members from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that managed to reach the city of Bouca on 12 September. "The priority has to be to treat the injured and help families whose homes have been looted or burnt to the ground. In addition, dead bodies, which sometimes lie neglected on the ground, have to be buried."
Entire neighbourhoods have been deserted in the city of more than 20,000 people. The inhabitants have fled into the bush, to relatives or behind the walls of places of worship, leaving everything behind. The ICRC has arranged for 13 seriously injured people to be transferred by air from Batangafo to the referral hospital in Bangui. Within one week, volunteers of the Central African Red Cross Society have collected the mortal remains of 30 people for identification and burial.
Most health-care centres are closed and people are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. "In places far from the capital, access to care is extremely limited and needs are immense," said Bonaventure Bazirutwabo, the ICRC's health coordinator in the country.
In some areas the violence has made it difficult to reach the victims. Clashes on the road to Bossangoa delayed the arrival of ICRC staff for several days.
"All parties must refrain from committing any acts of violence against civilians or against medical personnel and facilities," said Georgios Georgantas, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui. "Humanitarian organizations must be able to work in safety so that they can reach and bring aid to all victims. People's very survival is at stake."