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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Humanitarian mission recommends urgent help for towns

BANGUI, 5 March 2003 (IRIN) - Two towns in the Central African Republic (CAR) recently recaptured from rebel control by government forces urgently require intervention in the health, food and farming sectors, a joint UN-government-NGO humanitarian mission recommended in a report made public on Monday.

The report followed the mission's tour on 26 February of Damara and Sibut towns, respectively 80 km and 184 km northeast of the capital, Bangui.

The mission detailed the looting and destruction of health facilities in the towns. In Damara, with 27,996 inhabitants, drugs worth 14 million CFA francs (US $23,000) were looted from the local pharmacy, which was destroyed by rebels loyal to the CAR former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize.

Four medical assistants are running the health centre in Damara, and the maternity hospital has just one midwife. The international NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres has been supplying the institutions with basic drugs.

The report also revealed that the mattresses for the hospital's 60 beds, surgical equipment and ambulances had been taken away. It also said that during their stay in Damara, the rebels had targeted state property and looted drugs, vehicles, fuel and communication equipment.

However, the report said that "immunisation activities have resumed since 19 February". The mission said "parasitosis, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, malaria, malnutrition and wounds" were common among the people.

Eighty-one cases of malnutrition and 23 cases of rape had been registered in Damara, where the local Red Cross is said to have buried or burnt 27 corpses.

In Sibut, with 22,000 inhabitants, the hospital and health centres are operating with a few medical assistants and nurses. Until 26 February, one-third of the population was still hiding in the bush, fearing that the rebels would return. The mission's report said administrative authorities were absent in Damara and Sibut.

The government recaptured Damara in January and Sibut in February. So far, the local residents have received no food aid, but the UN World Food Programme has announced that vulnerable groups in both towns would receive some help this week.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition

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