By Lara Kajs
There may be some relief in the future for Central African Republic as the United Nations Security Council has voted to deploy nearly 12,000 desperately needed peacekeeping troops, although not until September 2014, more than four months away.
CAR has been steeped in terrifying acts of violence – which has been categorized as a Genooide Emergency by the human rights group Genocide Watch. Enmeshed in turmoil that stems from a coup d’état in 2007, the country’s ability to provide a working health system is spiraling out of control and is on the verge of collapse.
Availability of health care is limited
According to Dr. Michel Yao of the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been a decline in the ability to not only effectively treat diseases such as malaria, but also provide key precautions such as immunizations to children. Hospitals have been looted, and the lack of security has prevented humanitarian relief efforts. As recent as July 2013, an assessment of the situation determined that less than half of health facilities were operational; however the number of working facilities has worsened.
In Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic, thirty-seven percent of the population is reported to have malaria. Inadequate living conditions and water access has seen an increase in diarrheal disease. Without basic necessities such as clean water and electricity, disease is a problem. Due to the lack of immunization, there has been an increase in the number of people contracting measles.Life for CAR health care workers.
Health care workers in CAR are at a disadvantage, the majority of who have not been paid in nearly five months. Add to this the separation from their families - mainly because of the deficient conditions such as no schools, lack of water and electricity and the fact that most live in fear for their life. Among the growing concerns, is the spread of disease (especially polio) throughout the region via internally displaced persons (IDPs) and displaced persons across borders. Other priorities include finding an affordable means to bring medical supplies into CAR as well as food.
A Different Type of Crisis
CAR is different than most humanitarian crisis in that it is not a natural disaster. There are daily accounts of extreme violence, including gang rapes, mutilations and killings, which make it very difficult to work and provide assistance. The situation is dire and the people are suffering largely because humanitarian groups cannot gain access to give help. Children are malnourished and sick. Of grave concern is the lack of funding available to provide aid to people. With the rainy season on the way, the question remains…is nearly five months too long to wait for the people of Central African Republic?
Featured Image: When people cannot afford to travel to health centres, health centres come to them. WHO health cluster partner Save the Children organizes mobile health clinics across the district. Near the town of Gaïdoa, some 30km from Bouar, a large crowd of families gathers early in the morning. (CHRIS BLACK/WHO)