Sad day in Bossangoa, Central African Republic
Feb 05, 2014
Escalating violence, revenge killings, arson and looting in the Central African Republic have displaced more than 900, 000 civilians, according to UNOCHA.
The morning of Thursday 30th January saw 8 000 displaced Muslim people in Bossangoa preparing to load their families and possessions on a fleet of hired trucks, fleeing the country in terror of attacks by anti-balaka militias. The displaced have been living in an empty school in Bossangoa as they are too scared to return to their homes, some of which are only a few hundred metres away. After numerous incidents of violence in which several hundred Muslims have been killed in villages outside of Bangui, the Muslim population is now trying to leave the town and the country out of fear of violence.
It soon became apparent that the 20 trucks would be able to transport only a fraction of the 8, 000 people that gathered, desperate to escape the country.
Women and children were given priority on some trucks, as men elected to stay behind, having sent their families to safety. “I am sending my family on the truck but I am going to stay because there is no space for me,” one man told the MSF team. “I will try to follow later.”
Fear turned to despair when it became apparent that not all the displaced people would be evacuated on the convoy, under the escort of the Chadian army.
Many people have been traumatized not just by the violence, but by the sudden upsurge of hatred along religious lines, in the country they call home.
“I was born here, I don’t understand the hate towards us,“ another Muslim man told us. “We are the ones who are traders here… I sell sugar and coffee. I want to come home when there is peace in Central Africa. ”
MSF started emergency activities in Bossangoa in May 2013 after heavy violence forced thousands of people to leave their homes and seek shelter in makeshift camps.
In a second camp in Bossangoa around 28,000 displaced Christians have gathered since September, fearing attacks by Seleka troops. The MSF team supports hospital departments and activities in camps located inside the city, giving medical assistance to all people, regardless of religious, ethnic or political affiliation. Since the beginning of October MSF has carried out over 176 surgeries in the Bossangoa hospital of which the majority are violence related. More than 600 children were admitted to the program for severe malnutrition and over 14,000 consultations were performed of which over 6000 were malaria cases. MSF is providing water and has constructed latrines in both camps.
While much attention has focused on the plight of people living in urban centres such as Bangui and Bossangoa, there are an enormous number of people who have fled into the bush. MSF is gravely concerned that people are living in conditions that make them vulnerable to diseases such as malaria, and has deployed mobile outreach clinics to provide basic healthcare to some of the uncounted numbers of people who are still hiding in the bush. Uncounted numbers of displaced people still have no access to health care, food, clean drinking water and shelter.
MSF is seeing total exodus of the Muslim population also in other places in CAR, mostly in the western part of the country. In Bangui, Bouca, Bozoum, Bocaranga, Carnot, Berberati and Baoro most or even all Muslim have left out of fear of violence. Many of them fled into a neighbouring country, others are still trying to leave CAR.
In Bouar our team on the ground is reporting a particularly alarming situation – the Muslim population is unable to escape as there are more than 2500 of Anti-Balaka occupying all the roads, and each day more groups are arriving. The town has essentially become a prison. Access to the hospital is nearly impossible.