“I want to help the people of my community however I can”
“I used to make enough money to support my family. We had a comfortable life.”
For a long time, Jean Olivier Arsène Pangbanga lived a normal life, working as a farmer and raising goats near his home village of Bria in the Central African Republic, earning him enough money to be able to support his family.
He would volunteer with International Medical Corps whenever he had the opportunity, helping his local community in any way possible. “I eventually saved up enough money to build a second home in the village,” Jean recalls. “Our future seemed hopeful.”
This all changed when fighting broke out suddenly between the government and rebel militant groups.
“I was out working in the fields near the village of Irrabanda, about 46 kilometres away from Bria. Suddenly I had an accident and fractured my leg. I was rushed by International Medical Corps staff to a treatment centre in Bria, and it was during this time that violence broke out in the area.”
Jean was confined to a hospital bed and could not reach his family at home.
“They burned down my home and killed my little brother,” he says. “Now my mother has gone missing, we don’t know what happened to her.”
This state of chaos and disinformation has become commonplace in Bria, which has been plagued with instability since the conflict first erupted. To add to the physical insecurity, many locals are now faced with an uncertain economic future.
“I can’t work right now, and even if I could the violence could erupt again at any moment. My wife is selling some items here and there just for our survival, but it’s hard to support our children this way.”
However, despite everything that has happened to him, Jean remains hopeful for the future.
“I will be forever grateful for what International Medical Corps has done for me. If they had not rushed me to the treatment centre when they did, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I would have likely lost my leg. They also treated me for free, which was very important for me because my line of work did not give me the means to pay for medicine.”
International Medical Corps works with support from the European Union to provide primary healthcare, as well as clean water and sanitation projects, health education, gender-based violence prevention and maternal and child health care services for conflict-affected populations in CAR. Jean says that access to these services was vital to his family’s survival in their time of hardship.
Maintaining an air of careful optimism in his voice, he adds, “Although I need to use a cane, at least I can still walk, which means I can work in the future. If peace returns to this land, I will go back to farming and raising goats as I did before.