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CAR: Violent attacks against MSF threaten access to medical care
A rise in attacks against aid workers in the Central African Republic (CAR) is threatening the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid, said Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today.
On Friday 7 November a transport truck with medical supplies, clearly identified as operating for MSF, was stopped and held captive by an armed group on the route linking Paoua in the North to the capital Bangui, between the towns of Yaloké and Bossembélé.
A sum of money was demanded for the vehicle and its crew to be freed. 24 hours later, on the same road, a second MSF truck was held up by the same armed group. The team leader was taken away and forced to negotiate a payment.
Unnacceptable attack on aid workers
“These two events are extremely serious. On each occasion, the attackers were highly aggressive, threatening, pointing their guns at our staff members and shooting into the air. After being held and having to pay substantial amounts of money, our colleagues were freed. Fortunately, no one was injured, but these types of attacks and threats against humanitarian aid workers are unacceptable,” stated Delphine Chedorge, MSF head of mission in CAR.
“These events are proof that the situation in CAR is far from peaceful. Insecurity still represents a major block to the provision of aid in the country, where the humanitarian needs are enormous.”
Easy targets for violence and greed
These recent attacks are part of an increasing number of violent incidents and attempts at extortion carried out against humanitarian aid workers and vehicles over the past several months, peaking since October.
Despite repeated contact with the authorities, international forces and local armed groups to negotiate safe access, the attacks continue.
The dangers that MSF staff are exposed to may force the organisation to cut back on the lifesaving assistance that it provides, often in areas where it is the only medical organisation working to provide services on which hundreds of thousands of people depend.
“The current government is completely absent and silent. MINUSCA* has failed to protect ordinary citizens. French and European forces in CAR are unable to secure the country or the main highways.
Like people in CAR, NGOs are victims of this insecurity, and are easy targets for the violence and greed carried out by armed groups that no one claims to control,” declared Laurent Sury, who manages MSF’s programs in CAR, from Paris.
MSF in Central African Republic
MSF’s involvement in CAR began in 1997. In 2013, the organisation doubled the number of projects running in the country in order to respond to the crisis.
*Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République Centrafricaine /United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of the Central African Republic