Our teams have helped to re-open one of the main hospitals in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, after its staff fled in fear when violence broke out in early December.
Peacekeepers from Burundi are now guarding Hôpital de l’Amitié, where over 150 doctors, nurses and other personnel have returned to work. Despite a shortage of medical supplies and salaries for staff, the hospital has treated over 500 people since it opened earlier this week.
The situation is unrecognisable from a month ago, when armed groups attacked patients and local civilians sheltering in the hospital, killing at least 10 in the process.
Pressing healthcare needs
Abdulkarim Zakaria, the director of the hospital, now makes the dangerous journey across Bangui into work every day. “The hospital is in a very populated area of the city, where many people have been displaced to. Healthcare needs are huge here; it was imperative that I and other staff get back to work,” he said.
Reopening Hôpital de l’Amitié is part of Save the Children’s response to the dramatic health needs in and around the capital. The country is said to have only 7 surgeons for a population of some 4.6 million and poor conditions in the camps for displaced families mean there is a real risk of disease epidemics.
“Re-opening Hopital de l’Amitie means we’re able reach people who really need our help, from young children with malaria to mothers having emergency caesareans.
“But this is an island of calm in a volatile situation – CAR needs much wider stability if the health system is to improve,” said Robert Lankenau, Save the Children’s country director in CAR.
We’re providing medicines, transport and money
Despite this important step forward, only around 45% of staff overall have so far returned to work, and unpaid salaries and the lack of medicines remain major stumbling blocks.
Save the Children is addressing these by providing essential medicines, as well as secure transport and some financial assistance to staff until the Ministry of Health deals with the backlog of late salary payments.
But if CAR’s struggling health system is going to be able to go any way toward meeting the country’s needs, medical staff and patients will need a secure environment. Save the Children calls on peacekeeping forces to focus on protecting civilian infrastructure like schools and hospitals – as the Burundian troops are doing at Hopital de l’Amitie.
*Name changed to protect identity