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Looting leaves millions in Central Africa Republic without medicine

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Millions of people, estimated at 3.2 million are unable to access basic medical needs and services in the Central Africa Republic. This troubled African nation has had its infrastructure torn apart, and looting has stripped the country of basic medical supplies. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Urgent support is required to rebuild staff and provide for health facilities across the country. According to a recent report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, looting occurred during a change of leadership when there was no police force or army in force. 

"Solar panels have been taken, there are no mattresses left and medicines have been taken or damaged. Ambulances donated by NGOs have been gutted, with engines and wires removed so they cannot be used any more," Vincent Pouget, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.   


"In one place, the light bulb of a surgery lamp was taken. The bulbs are quite cheap, but they are very specific and cannot be found in the local market. So now you have a hospital where they are doing surgery at night using candles," Pouget says.


CAR, with its population 5.2 million, already had some of the worst health indicators in the world. There are fewer than five doctors per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.


The largely uncontrolled rebel movement has inflicted death and destruction on many towns and villages since March. There is at least a basic level of security in the capital of Bangui.


"Doctors are appointed to their posts and have no family ties in the region. When the fighting broke out, they decided to leave [for Bangui]," Pouget said. "In Kaga Bandoro, six hours drive north of Bangui, the only doctor for the whole area returned just one month ago after a lot of persuasion. So for several months, the facilities in Kaga Bandoro were functioning only with nurses," he said.   


"Inevitably, when there are no services, people seek alternatives," Alain Coutand, Director of Regional Operations at Action Contre la Faim says. The group is responsible for treating malnutrition and implementing water, sanitation and hygiene programs in CAR.


"We've seen examples of people displaced in the bush making their own soap with ashes and plants, so you can imagine they are referring back to traditional medicines too," Coutand says. 

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