Deserted villages in the Central African Republic

Wednesday 31 July 2013

By Mark Kaye, acting Emergency Communications Manager for Save the Children's response in Central African Republic

As I look around the empty health post it dawns on me just how much work is to be done here. Its four rooms are completely empty apart from a single broken maternity bed and a dented chamber pot. There are no medicines left, no equipment, not even a mattress.

I’m told everything of value was stolen in the aftermath of the coup; that this area is practically lawless and that armed gangs now rule with impunity extorting ‘tax’ from those who have already lost almost everything with the threat of further violence.

It is no wonder that nearly every village we pass on our way to the local hospital is practically deserted.

Afraid
Talking to the few who have returned to their homes it is obvious that the fear is still palpable. They tell me that most people are still in hiding, still living in the ‘bush’ without access to basic services and healthcare.

It has been 4 months since the violence erupted and for many food reserves are said to have all but disappeared.

Looking around the needs are both obvious and huge. Children with distended abdomens – a tell tale sign of acute malnutrition – are an all too common sight here.

I hear stories of pregnant women so afraid to come back to their villages that they give birth in the ‘bush’, in the most primitive of conditions, leading to miscarriages and maternal deaths.

One of the village chiefs explains that in the bush people are dying of minor illnesses for want of treatment and that in less than a month 3 children under the age of 5 in this largely abandoned village have passed away.

Malaria and dysentery are the suspected culprits.

Paying the highest price
Time and time again in this job I see that when disaster strikes it is always the most vulnerable who pay the highest price. Here it is no different as women and children go hungry or succumb to completely treatable illnesses.

It is in response to this crisis that Save the Children have set-up a new country programme in the Central African Republic that will look to help those most in need.

We are already on the ground and are starting to distribute much-needed drugs and equipment to this health post – and the other 8 that are located on this stretch of road. We will replace the looted and destroyed equipment, and train both existing Ministry of Health staff and Community Health Workers to ensure that those in need of essential health care receive it.

For sure there is much to be done in the CAR, but little by little we know we can make sure that no child here is born to die.

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