Since a coup in March 2013, increasing violence has killed thousands and uprooted approximately 1 million people, nearly a fifth of the landlocked nation’s population of 4.6 million. In the last month, EMERGENCY staff in Bangui operated on more than 30 children injured by gunfire, rockets, grenades and machetes. Over only a few weeks, this war caused more than 600 deaths, leaving approximately 100,000 people looking for protection near the airport and protection from the military tanks in the city.
On January 4, 2013, Al Jazeera English reported that more children are now being targeted and killed as concerns over civilian casualties escalate. In the article, Ombretta Pasotti, a coordinator at EMERGENCY‘s Pediatric Center in Bangui, confirmed:
“Before now, children were collateral victims, but today some of them are targeted directly. Some children are victims of stray bullets and shell fragments… Some were wounded ‘by chance’, but here we also have children who were shot because they are Muslims.”
Mohsin, another EMERGENCY program coordinator, observed:
“When they arrive at the Complexe Pédiatrique, often children no longer have parents. Nobody waits outside the operating room.”
The Daily Mail UK on Sunday also reported on January 4th that vigilante mobs are targeting children. Journalist Giovanna Cipriani visited Bangui and writes:
“One particular memory stands out. I was at Complexe Pédiatrique, a children’s hospital in the capital, Bangui, run by EMERGENCY, a humanitarian organization that provides free medical care for civilian victims of war, on December 5th. These doctors were risking their safety when diplomats and most aid agency representatives had fled because of the security situation. The children’s injuries were the worst these doctors had ever seen.”
Thursday, December 19th: We start working in PK13, an area some 13km from Bangui, where many displaced families from neighboring villages have gathered. We try to provide the many children suffering from malaria and malnourishment with immediate treatment, but for very severe cases, we must transfer them to our pediatric center in Bangui for further care. At night, conflict breaks out in Bangui. The streets are dangerous and deserted except for French military tanks and the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) patrolling the streets.
Monday, December 23rd: There is fighting near to the airport, PK5 and throughout the city. Our work is becoming increasingly difficult:
- We are working long hours, because the national staff are afraid to leave their houses and travel to the hospital due to the danger on the roads.
- For the same reason, few patients arrive to the hospital. Even the humanitarian organizations that brought the sick to our clinic two days ago have temporarily suspended transport in some areas of the city for safety reasons.
- The Complexe Pédiatrique Kinderchirurgie, the public hospital where our surgical team works, is full. We cannot discharge patients, because they will not be able to reach their places of origin.
- Supplies have become sparse and difficult to access. We have stocked up on food for our patients and staff. For a few days, we are also supplying the public hospital, who has asked for food.
Wednesday, December 25th: We bring a child wounded by a bullet in another district into the operating room.
Thursday, December 26th: Four children, hit by shrapnel while they were on the road in a suburb north of the city, arrived at the Pediatric Clinic.
Sunday, January 5th: The situation is even more critical outside the capital where insecure roads makes access to hospitals and doctors very difficult. This morning, we find people in one of the villages wounded since early December. Among the wounded we find:
- a boy with one leg wrapped in a cloth, unable to walk properly;
- a boy with a month-old fracture injury;
- a young boy with hemiplegia caused by a sliver of grenade in his head, who was lying on a mat and could not move the right side of his body.
. . .
The Bangui Pediatric Center opened in March 2009 as part of long-term efforts to bring life-saving care to war-torn communities around the globe through sustainable regional medical centers. The Center is one of the facilities within the EMERGENCY Regional Health Program for Africa, a network of facilities providing free of charge pediatric health care in the region. The Center is open 24 hours a day, and offers health assistance, and health and hygiene education to children up to the age of 14.
Click here for updates and to read more reports from the EMERGENCY staff in Bangui as well as other news from the field.