Central Africa hospitals under attack: UN

20th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

Medical facilities in the conflict-ravaged Central African Republic have come under attack, the UN health agency said Friday, as aid groups warned of difficulties in getting supplies to those in need.

"Health centres and hospitals continue to be targeted by unidentified militias," World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.

"A hospital on the outskirts of Bangui was looted during the night of December 17 to 18," he said.

Overall, Jasarevic said, it is a tough situation for aid workers in the Central African Republic, with violence hampering efforts by WHO's teams to reach medical facilities to check what supplies are needed.

Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the World Food Programme, said aid agencies were facing a "massive logistical challenge".

"Operations in some places are dangerous for our personnel," she said, underlining the risks as the UN food agency seeks to expand deliveries to reach a million people next year, up from the current target of 500,000.

Last Friday the WFP had begun delivering aid to some 40,000 people camped near the airport in the capital Bangui, only to suspend operations the next day after threats from men wielding machetes.

Food distribution resumed Wednesday, but halted immediately when armed men arrived at the scene and began looting the supplies.

"It's very difficult to secure the access roads to the airport. It's not a problem with the airport as such, where there are French troops and it's secure," Byrs said.

Patrick McCormick, spokesman for the UN children's agency UNICEF, said aid groups fear the usual seasonal food shortages in January could worsen and create a hunger crisis.

"A lot of our operations have been curtailed by the violence, so we're worried about especially children in the interior who are suffering from severe malnutrition, and also in Bangui," he said.

The poverty-stricken majority Christian country has descended into chaos and sectarian violence since a March coup by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

After a fresh wave of violence began two weeks ago, French troops deployed in a bid to stem communal strife that has sparked global concern.

Since the crisis began a year ago, over 710,000 people have been displaced inside the Central African Republic, with 210,000 alone uprooted by the latest wave of violence in the capital, according to the UN.

Another 75,000 have fled across the country's borders.

© 2013 AFP

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