Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the poorest nations on earth. The UN’s Human Development Index ranks CAR amongst the ten least developed countries in the world, with levels of health, education and income far lower than even its neighbours in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a country beset by internal armed conflict, plagued by the threat of the infamous Lords Resistance Army and overshadowed by crises in neighbouring countries, such as Darfur in Sudan. Despite the massive ongoing humanitarian needs of Central African Republic, it remains largely unreported in Britain and Europe, a neglected crisis in a far-away place.
International Medical Corps is committed to supporting the world’s most vulnerable communities, wherever they are, which is why we are working in the north eastern region of CAR in some of the most inaccessible and insecure locations. In April 2011 more than 5,000 people were displaced from their homes in Mele and Sikikede towns in the north of CAR due to an escalation of conflict between armed rebel groups. These families were forced to leave their homes with very few belongings, and sought refuge in the neighbouring towns of Ndiffa and Tiringoulou, putting pressure on the already overstretched health centres at a time when access to essential health and nutrition services was vital.
Thanks to the generous support of ECHO and the Common Humanitarian Fund, International Medical Corps launched an emergency response to provide basic health and nutrition services to both internally displaced people, as well as the host population in Ndiffa and Tiringoulou. Furthermore International Medical Corps has begun providing support to Sikikede, an area where no humanitarian assistance had been possible since August 2010 due the precarious security situation.
It is impossible to understate the complexities of delivering essential health care to these communities. Accessing these remote field locations is challenging as travel by road is often not possible due to the risk of ambush and flooding during the rainy season. The limitations on transportation mean delivering equipment and supplies to Tiringoulou and neighbouring towns requires meticulous planning. Blistering heat makes storing vaccines a real challenge and a functioning fridge is needed every mile of the way.
Despite the difficulties that International Medical Corps faces in delivering assistance to remote communities in CAR, we remain committed to fulfilling our mission, to train local people and rehabilitate health systems so our help will one day no longer be needed. As a result of our vaccination campaigns 2,433 children were vaccinated against measles and 4,008 against Yellow Fever in the past 12 months.
During a recent visit to Tiringoulou by Catherine Ainsworth our Programmes Administration Assistant, a team of birth attendants described how training provided by International Medical Corps has allowed them to develop their skills and therefore improve the treatment they can give to pregnant women and those giving birth.
Catherine recalls, “The visit to Tiringoulou was all too brief but the memory of the community commitment lasts. As I left the maternity unit one of the birth attendants stopped us and said ‘Thank you for your help, we thought we would be forgotten’.
As a result of International Medical Corps’ training and support in this region of CAR, more than 230 women have given birth with the supervision of a trained birth attendant, since August 2011. Our efforts are succeeding in bringing down the high rates of maternal mortality and giving babies a safer, healthier start in life.