Geneva / Bangui — The fighting that has rocked the capital city Bangui since 5 December has forced thousands of people to flee their homes and seek refuge in places of worship and hospitals, where conditions are worsening by the hour.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has today begun to distribute food (beans, maize, oil and salt) to some 20,000 people (over 12,000 taking refuge at the Don Bosco child-schooling centre, 5,000 at Saint-Pierre, 2,000 at the Boy-Rabe monastery and a further 80 people in the mosque in PK5 neighbourhood). Latrines are also being installed at Boy-Rabe.
"We're extremely concerned about the situation here," said Arnaud de Baecque, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in the capital. "We call on the authorities to do their utmost to protect the population. We also appeal to all those involved in the fighting to facilitate the work of the Red Cross."
The ICRC's priority is to ensure that staff of the Central African Red Cross Society and the ICRC itself have access to most severely affected parts of the city to evacuate the wounded and recover bodies. Despite the precarious quiet observed since Friday morning, de Baecque said, the situation remained tense in the neighbourhoods of Marché central, Boy-Rabe and Kassaï.
"The fighting has taken a heavy toll among the population," said de Baecque. "The Central African Red Cross Society estimates that 300 people have been killed, but that number may rise in coming days." Since Thursday, he said, the Red Cross had taken 95 wounded people to hospital. The ICRC was aiding the National Society with vehicles, fuel, first-aid supplies and body bags for the dead. The ICRC had also supplied the Bangui's Community Hospital with enough medical and surgical supplies to treat 50 wounded people.