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Three-year-old girl shot in escalating Central African Republic violence

“What was already one of the most acute humanitarian crises in the world is worsening,” one MSF official said.

Image: Amnesty International/PA Images

A THREE-YEAR-old girl was among 24 people treated by a children’s hospital in one weekend in March, as violence escalates in the Central African Republic.

Violence between the Seleka rebel coalition (mainly Muslim) and the anti-balaka (Christian militia), which included waves of ethnic cleansing, has divided the country.

During the weekend of 24-26 March, Bria paediatric hospital’s paediatric ward received around 24 badly-injured people.

It was chaos, and I remember having to leave one wounded man because I needed to urgently focus on another who just arrived with his intestines hanging out.

“We had limited technical equipment, but our surgeon managed to save his life,” says Dr Katie Treble, who was working in Bria hospital at the time.

On Wednesday the US imposed sanctions on the leaders of the two sides: Abdoulaye Hissene of Seleka faction and Maxime Mokom of the anti-balaka militia.

The Seleka rebel coalition ousted then-President Francois Bozize in 2013, while the anti-balaka militia was formed in reaction to Bozize’s ousting.

Escalating violence

Central African Republic - Violence Jovachi Mongonou had both legs amputated after he was injured by a shell in the Central African Republic. Source: DPA/PA Images

As conflict spreads and intensifies in the Central African Republic, dozens of civilians are being killed and wounded.

Thousands are being forced to flee for their lives and are receiving little to no humanitarian assistance, according to the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

“Our teams have witnessed summary executions and have found mutilated bodies left exposed to terrorise populations. Civilians are traumatised and many have fled to the bush where they are surviving on whatever they can find,” says René Colgo, MSF’s deputy head of mission.

In the past few months, in-fighting among parties from the 2014–2015 conflict has resulted in splinter groups and has triggered a conflict for control of territory and resources, especially in the centre and east of the country.

When cities change hands, civilians are the first to suffer.

Central African Republic - Violence An anti-Balaka militia member - having been looting and burning houses and proud of it. Source: DPA/PA Images

The conflict is spreading to areas that had been considered relatively stable for the past two years. In Bakouma and Nzako (Mbomou province), towns and mining areas are being contested by rival armed groups, with devastating consequences for the civilian population.

What was already one of the most acute humanitarian crises in the world is worsening.

“The Central African Republic is spiralling into levels of violence that have not been seen since the peak of the conflict in 2014”, says Emmanuel Lampaert, MSF’s representative in CAR.

“At the very least all parties need to stop attacking non-combatants and allow a minimum of assistance to reach those in desperate need”, says Caroline Ducarme, head of mission in CAR.

Read: 19 civilians and six police dead after two days of clashes in Central Africa, says UN

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