Central African Republic: NGOs supply drugs to the northeast

BANGUI, 30 January (IRIN) - Medicos Sin Fronteras (MSF-Spain) and Cooperazione Internationale have undertaken a joint mission to supply essential drugs to hospitals in two cities still under government control in the northeast of the Central African Republic (CAR).
The drugs, worth 1,000,000 francs CFA (US$ 1538,48) were flown on Saturday and Sunday to two provincial hospitals at Ndele and Birao (645 km and 1101 km respectively northeast of the capital, Bangui).

"We brought essential drugs, both tablets and injections, including anti-tuberculosis and anti-meningitis ones as well as vaccines", Dr Carlos Recio, MSF medical coordinator, told IRIN on Tuesday.

The mission also brought kerosene for the hospitals' freezers to preserve the vaccines. Recio said that the drugs, which were mostly provided by the CAR health ministry, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and MSF, would be despatched to smaller health centres nearby.

The northeast has been isolated from Bangui since 25 October 2002, when Gen Francois Bozize, the former army chief of staff, and his supporters invaded the capital in a bid to overthrow President Ange-Felix Patasse. After being defeated, they withdrew to the centre and the north of the country, blocking all land access to the east.

"Hospitals will be vaccinating children, but not massively", Recio said, noting that the current health situation was not very different from the pre-crisis one. He said the number of patients coming to hospitals and health centres had increased slightly by 2 or 3 percent, but no epidemics had broken out in the area. He also said that there was no sign of malnutrition among children.

However, Recio said that prices on local markets had increased by 20 percent due to the isolation of the area and to long-running conflicts between rival tribes on either side of the CAR-Sudan border. The latter hinder commercial exchange between the two countries.

He said a further goal of the mission was to put in place a system of epidemiological control, using registers in which all the data would be recorded before being sent to Bangui for analysis.

Similar missions are due to be conducted in other remote regions to enable humanitarian groups to establish a joint nationwide strategic plan. Meanwhile, the rebels last week authorised UN agencies in CAR to conduct a humanitarian assessment mission in areas under their control.


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