Photo: Young mothers and their newborns at the Maternity service of the MSF-supported hospital in Batangafo. CAR 2012 © Chloé Cébron
As Violence Surges Anew in CAR, Families Again Flee Into The Bush
On December 20, the rebel coalition known as “Seleka, which has attacked several locations in the north of Central African Republic (CAR) in recent days, entered the town of Batangafo, where Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been supporting the main hospital.
The previous day, after the rebels announced their intention to move towards Bouca, through the town of Batangafo, FACA—the Central African military forces—the gendarmerie, and all public authorities fled the town. Numerous civilians, scared by the threat of an attack, also left Batangafo to seek refuge into the bush. The rebels entered and took the town 24 hours later.
MSF maintains its team on the ground and is continuing its activities at the hospital, though the number of consultations dropped from 193 the day before the rebels’ advances to 38 on the day after they entered the town.
Testimonies collected by MSF’s team in Batangafo a few hours before rebels entered the town illustrate the fear pervasive among a population that has already endured more than 10 years of armed conflicts. Fleeing into the bush has become almost routine at this point, though it certainly hasn’t gotten any easier or less fraught. “I am very worried by the situation, said a 55-year-old woman named Ghislaine. “Yesterday the kids at school fled in the bush when they heard that armed troops were arriving in town. We did not know where they were. We are so scared.”
According to Enoch Nodl-ya, an MSF anesthetist nurse at Batangafo hospital, “for the last ten years the population has endured the regular presence and attacks from armed men in this region. People are scared and flee rapidly into the bush. As a consequence, many women give birth in the fields without any assistance and most sick or wounded are hesitant to receive medical assistance, scared of possible violence in the populated areas. When the violence stops, we often see patients coming in an advance stage of their diseases.”