Humanitarian CrisesNews

Despair, Deaths As Central Africa Republic Government Restricts MSF, Aid Activities

The government’s decision to stop air travel by officials of the aid organisation has cut short the availability of prompt medical assistance to the sick in the zone.

Nine persons recently died in Kabo, a locality to the north of the Central African Republic, due to lack of medical attention after the government declined to allow staff of the French international humanitarian organisation, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) to travel by air.

The government’s decision to stop air travel by officials of the aid organisation has cut short the availability of prompt medical assistance to the sick in the zone.

A team of MSF personnel was forced to pay ransom to an armed group as it was obliged to travel by road through dangerous territory which is usually accessed by air because the government has banned air travel by humanitarian organisations since Dec. 2020.

This has forced the MSF to reduce its activities in some northern areas of the Central African Republic and has led to deaths due to lack of medical services in the affected areas including Kabo where nine people died recently.

According to Romain Briey, MSDF chief of mission, the international humanitarian organisation is forced to withdraw some of its personnel.

“Despite a reduction in staff and services, MSF continues to support humanitarian medical operations in Kabo, where we have been present since 2006,” Briey said. 

“In recent days, MSF has withdrawn 43 staff from Kabo, where we operate a hospital and support two health posts and a network of community health workers.

“However, the hospital and health posts continue to provide a limited service with 171 health workers recruited in Kabo and 12 Ministry of Health workers. MSF continues to send medical supplies, pay staff, and provide remote technical support.”

This situation has adverse consequences on the health of the population of Kabo, according to Chantal Merveille Togoman, parliamentarian for the region who is alarmed at the situation.

“We have been having a lot of difficulties in Kabo. We do not have a viable structure for the sale of medicine so there is no pharmacy here. Only the MSF health structure supports us,” Togoman said.

“From a paediatric point of view, pregnant women and all aspects of surgery are taken care of by MSF but by suddenly abandoning us, this has adverse consequences.”

“As proof, they left on Jan. 29 and between then and Feb. 5, we have lost nine women who died while giving birth. Those who were also transferred to Batangafo also died. Those are some of the problems we have encountered since the closure of the MSF health centre.”

According to Sylvie Baipo Temon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs who is handling the dossier, measures have been taken to permit MSF to continue working normally.

“I have been following this dossier which dates from 2020 ending to the beginning of 2022,” the Minister said.

He explained that the decision was taken following a number of observations on the ground and initiatives which were undertaken without validation.

It is because of that that this airport has been closed until further notice. I know that a certain number of dispositions have been taken to permit this NGO, MSF, to work normally.”

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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