by Katherine Mueller, IFRC
After being closed for several days due to the overthrow of the government in Central African Republic (CAR), markets have re-opened in the city of Bangui and electricity has been restored, at least at the hospital. But it is far from business as usual for those who live in or near the capital. For those who are venturing out, they are finding the price of staples like cassava and rice has tripled. Fuel is a hot commodity and is also quickly rising above what the average consumer can afford.
It has been a week of uncertainty and chaos in CAR, with thousands of people rushing across the border to safety in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). For Red Cross Societies on both sides of the border though, it has been business as usual as volunteers and staff do what they have done for years: help those most vulnerable.
“We were the only humanitarian organization in the field, assisting those affected by the conflict,” said Albert Yomba Eyamo, Secretary General of the Central African Republic Red Cross (CAR RC). “Our volunteers helped transport the wounded to community hospitals for treatment. Fortunately, we have a solid volunteer base; people who are ready and willing to help when their neighours need it the most.”
At the Red Cross headquarters in Bangui, 80 volunteers were mobilized and divided into five groups. They have spent the past few days transferring close to 80 people, wounded and deceased, to hospitals. Others help to disinfect hospitals, which were without power for days. And they deliver water, which has still not been restored.
“We have also asked our subdivisions to activate crisis committees,” says Eyamo. “Each is made up of approximately 30 volunteers. They stand at the ready, waiting to provide assistance to those in need, much like volunteers have been doing since the Red Cross was created in CAR 47 years ago.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal to support 15,000 civilians who have fled to DRC. Funds received will assist the Democratic Republic of Congo Red Cross in delivering much needed assistance in the form of shelter, clean water and sanitation, health care and the reunification of families.