Bangui — Following a violent armed robbery on Monday 20 November that threatened the lives of its workers, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has evacuated all 58 national and international staff, and suspended medical operations from Bangassou, a town in southeastern Central African Republic. The town is largely under the control of various armed groups affiliated to the anti-Balaka factions.
"We had the will and the means to stay in those areas. But we cannot put the lives of our staff on the line when our staff and the medical structures where we work are threatened", says Frederic Lai Manantsoa, MSF's country director.
In the Bangassou region, half a million people were relying almost entirely on MSF's services to access healthcare. Following attacks, most health centres in the area not supported by the organisation were left empty, lacking staff and the most basic drugs and medical supplies.
"Today, the 30 children under five who were in intensive care in the Bangassou hospital will not be seen by doctors or nurses. The 26 patients in urgent need of surgery will be left in their beds", says Frédéric Lai Manantsoa. "The only outside witnesses of what is happening on the ground in the area are UN troops and some missionaries. The Bangassou population has already started leaving the city, including critically ill patients from the hospital."
"Facing such huge, desperate needs, an international humanitarian organisation like ours should try to remain in the area as long as possible", Frédéric Lai Manantsoa continues. "Leaving the population utterly abandoned is a painful admission that we are unable to bring humanitarian relief to one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world today because of attacks on our staff."