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Central African Republic: Bloodshed in Bangui

It started at around 6am on Thursday 5 December, when our staff were awoken by the sound of explosions and heavy gunfire.  Throughout the morning, we remained on nervous standby, frantically calling anyone we knew in town to find out more information on what turned out to be  the worst violence to hit Bangui all year. For the remainder of the day, we were confined to our residence.

Our CEO Justin Forsyth on the desperate plight of families in the CAR:

Almost 400 are now confirmed dead and a further 60,000 displaced.  Bodies left strewn across the streets have been gathered by the Red Cross and moved to morgues and various places of worship.

Yesterday, I was part of a team led by UNICEF: we visited several key sites, including mosques and churches, where thousands of displaced people have congregated. “No one is sleeping here,” the imam at one mosque told us. “Rumours of more attacks  continue to circulate, so none of us sleeps more than one or two hours a night.”

Sick people afraid to visit hospital

At the time of writing, 63 bodies have been recovered in this neighbourhood. The imam told me that around 500 families are in need of medical care, but fear of further attacks prevents them from seeking help at the nearby hospital.

The atrocities he witnessed were difficult to hear about.  He told us of a pregnant woman who had her baby sliced out of her stomach. He also mentioned seeing a child who couldn’t have been more than three  years old receiving treatment for an arm that had been chopped off.

Children alone

Afterwards, I crossed the road to another mosque. A local man explained that approximately 180 unaccompanied children seeking refuge from the violence had spent the past two nights here. Save the Children staff and our UNICEF colleagues made plans to return and document individual cases as soon as possible, in a bid to reunite lone children with members of their families.

Finally, we made our way to Castor Church: 3,000 people are estimated to have fled here. At night, people cram the church to scrounge for a sleeping spot on the floor. Many of the children here are hungry and some have really high temperatures, according to mothers’ reports to our doctor. Many mothers are also frightened that their children are at increased risk of malaria.  There is also only one toilet for the entire church. If this many people remain here, that poses a major health risk.

While chaos reigns in these makeshift camps, Bangui remains a ghost town.

 

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