International Medical Corps’ Director of Operations, Chris Skopec, has recently returned from a 10-day visit to the Central African Republic (CAR), where the security situation continues to rapidly deteriorate and the humanitarian community is deeply concerned that the civilian population, targeted by opposing forces, bears the brunt of violence.
Skopec joined the Director of the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, and six other UN and NGO Emergency Directors, for a three day joint mission. They met with members of CAR’s Transition Government, humanitarian partners and representatives of the donor community to discuss the humanitarian impact of the persisting crisis on the civilian population.
The Emergency Directors also visited Bossangoa, Ouham province in northwest CAR, where confrontations that began on September 7 between Seleka elements, self-defence groups and other unidentified armed groups left many dead, including two humanitarian workers, injured scores and displaced tens of thousands. The delegation visited sites—including schools, churches and hospitals—being used by displaced families and saw first-hand the dire humanitarian situation of the people affected. Skopec said:
“The conditions throughout the country are severe; unfortunately they are considerably worse in Bossangoa. Of particular concern is the population of roughly 37,000 internally displaced persons living in a compound less than 900 square meters. There are currently no water or sanitation facilities, extremely limited health care services, and only the beginning of some basic food and non-food item distributions. Moreover, they are still extremely vulnerable to attacks from the same armed groups from whom they fled in the first place. Added to this is the fact that international humanitarian organizations have been directly targeted by armed groups in the region, which drastically limits the humanitarian response capabilities.”
At the end of the three day joint mission, the Emergency Directors urged the Transition government to take up its responsibility and ensure the protection of civilians, as well as respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, and quickly implement the return of political-administrative authorities to the interior. John Ging, Director of OCHA, said: “If we fail to act now, the already acute humanitarian crisis will become ever more unbearable for the population that is suffering and counting on the international community for help.”
During his time in CAR, Skopec also visited International Medical Corps’ projects in Haute-Kotto, where International Medical Corps support four clinics and an additional 14 remote communities with mobile clinics, and in Bambari, where we run a health post in a refugee camp for 2,000 Sudanese refugees. Skopec describes his visit:
“In both Bria and Bambari, I was extremely impressed with the work of our teams. It was clear that our staff and the support they provide is recognized and greatly appreciated by the members of the local and displaced communities, religious leaders and local authorities. Despite the extreme insecurity witnessed earlier in the year, and the widespread looting that affected our offices, warehouses, and health clinics, International Medical Corps was one of the first agencies to re-establish services outside of Bangui. Our teams in CAR epitomize the core values of the organization, showing a great deal of self-sacrifice to ensure that assistance is provided to those most in need. It was an honor to work alongside the team there, and I intend to support them through continued advocacy and fundraising for their efforts.”
International Medical Corps has been working in the Vakaga and Haute-Kotto Prefectures in northeast CAR since May 2007, providing basic primary and secondary health care, nutrition care and protection for internally displaced persons, refugees and host populations within these prefectures. These areas are characterised by insecurity and periods of conflict between active rebel groups, which have had a devastating impact on health, education, and water and sanitation services in this part of the country, leaving thousands without access to basic services.