Central African Republic: “The situation is a catastrophe”
There are people, as far as the eye can see: 45,000 of them. I walk into the field that is their new home – a home with no roof and one toilet shared with 44,999 others. These people struggle to secure any food, let alone a decent meal. For most, this situation is unthinkable, but for those at Bangui Airport it is reality.
Today in Bangui, there are 40 sites with over 210,000 displaced people. At the airport, there is virtually no shelter and not a single bed net. Children’s rates of malaria and respiratory infections are rising rapidly as a result. The sanitary conditions are shocking: the combination of open defecation and rain is an ideal breeding ground for intestinal diseases, which can be fatal to children. Many will also be suffering trauma after the violence on December 5.
Aid in action
Fortunately, help has started to arrive. UNICEF is distributing shelter materials, the World Food Programme is conducting mass food distributions, the Red Cross is building latrines, Medicines Sans Frontières is running two health posts while Save the Children provides desperately needed child protection activities. We are setting up Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs) close to the health centre so sick children can be referred for medical treatment. Our CFSs will also give children a safe place to play and learn while escaping the hardships of the camp for a little while. We will also provide direct psychosocial support to children experiencing significant trauma.
“The situation is a catastrophe”, says Aubin, our Child Protection Coordinator, who is also displaced in the camp. “The worst part is seeing the children here, including my own. Their physical and psychological condition will worsen, the longer they remain.” Aubin has been working tirelessly to set up this site. Despite his own difficulties, he still reports to work every morning. At night when he returns, he mobilises the community, highlighting the importance of a CFS for children’s wellbeing and security. Aubin led on opening the CFS last week: he expects a good turn out and has already placed his three children on the list of attendees.
Press storm before the calm
Last week Ledger Hotel, the main hotel in Bangui, was at capacity. Journalists, news anchors and camera crew flooded the lounge area, awaiting the next piece of information then rushing out to chase the story. Today, the hotel lounge is empty and silent: most journalists have left for the next story.
The number of displaced people in Bangui continues to rise by the day. Save the Children is working in several sites, delivering life-saving health and protection services, but huge needs remain. As Christmas and then a new year give rise to celebrations around the world, the question here remains: ‘What is the international community doing about CAR?”