Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) emergency team in the Central African Republic (CAR) has carried out a brief intervention in the remote north-eastern province of Vakaga, where humanitarian aid has been scarce despite the clear effects of years of conflict and displacement and the shortage of health resources in the area, which is home to about 70,000 people.
Currently there is only one humanitarian organization working in the area. “They were missing essential medicines, especially anti-malarials. In some centers there were no stretchers and we found an old emergency operating theatre from MSF’s last intervention five years ago, but it had almost no roof and operations were being performed practically outdoors,” said Chiara Domenichini, the head of the medical intervention, who also revealed that some cases of leprosy were detected.
It was a member of the community that who raised the alarm about the situation in the area, after travelling several days to cover the 300 km between Gordil and Ndele, where MSF has one of its regular projects. According to Domenichini, some patients covered the distance to reach the MSF health facility, “but making the trip in the rainy season is very, very difficult.”
After two weeks of activity, the MSF team has done support work for five health facilities located in the towns of Gordil, Ndiffa, Melé, Sikikede and Haifa, all in the Vakaga prefecture, to which it has also donated medicines. Training sessions have also been held for 80 staff members from the Ministry of Health to improve care for local people.
“We have delivered medicines and equipment to treat the most common diseases: malaria, measles and respiratory ailments”, said the medical officer.
Donations should allow health centres to provide free care for two months, when the peak in malaria associated with the seasonal rains usually ends. They have also left supplies of infant food to prevent outbreaks of malnutrition over this period. In addition, the organization has established communication mechanisms with the community in order to maintain vigilance for at least the next two months so it can return to intervene if necessary.
Members of the medical intervention also found worrying levels of child malnutrition. According to MSF, this year it has rained less than normal in the region and crops have been limited, which may cause critical conditions in a situation as precarious as that seen in much of the CAR, where many communities lack the resources to overcome the shortage of production from their own crops.
Vakaga is one of the 14 prefectures of the Central African Republic. Its capital is Birao. It covers an area of 46,500 km² and has a population of 70,000 (2015 estimates). The extremely low population density, less than 1 person/km², is a result of the capture of the majority of the region’s inhabitants by slave-traders from the Sudan in the second half of the 19th century and is known for its oil reserves.