Sporadic clashes are rocking a number of neighbourhoods in the Central African capital, Bangui. As the security situation deteriorates, the toll being taken on the civilian population is growing heavier.
The dangers involved in moving about the city may soon oblige restrictions to be placed on humanitarian action. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is continuing to work closely with the Central African Red Cross Society to come to the aid of the people affected and to take the wounded to hospital.
"Prompt evacuation to hospital can easily make the difference between life and death for someone with a gunshot or knife wound," said Georges Georgantas, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui. Recently, he said, the ICRC had taken a dozen people to hospital, including two pregnant women and two children needing emergency pediatric care. "The ICRC calls on all those bearing weapons to respect the red cross emblem and to ensure that health-care staff can go about their work in safety."
Humanitarian principles require that wounded people must be gathered and cared for without discrimination. The ICRC has deployed a new team consisting of a surgeon, an anaesthetist and specialized nurses to boost hospital care. It is also planning to have its engineers repair and upgrade the three-room trauma facility at Bangui's Community Hospital.
In addition to taking wounded people to hospital, the ICRC and Central African Red Cross are helping to collect bodies and take them to the morgue at Community Hospital.
Many city residents have been forced to flee their homes during the fighting and are now gathered at a number of sites around the capital where they are suffering from malnutrition, malaria and serious sanitary problems. To ward off an epidemic, ICRC engineers have been setting up water-treatment and -distribution equipment. As a result, 51,000 litres of drinking water were, for example, distributed at the airport site on 24 December alone. The engineers have also been installing latrines, including some designed for children.
The ICRC and the Central African Red Cross Society join in appealing to all those involved in the armed violence to respect people's right to life with dignity and to respect the principles of humanity.