Central African Republic Diary: Child Victims of Bangui Violence
Kent Page, Senior Advisor of Strategic Communications for UNICEF, reached Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR) on Jan. 11 as part of UNICEF’s Emergency Response Team, which is working to help the 2.3 million children affected by violence there. Page filed this dispatch shortly after his arrival.
As the plane taxied towards the airport, we could see the vast, makeshift camp where 100,000 people have recently fled fighting in and around Bangui.
Our visit just a few hours later to the country’s only pediatric hospital clearly showed that they fled their homes for good reason.
At the hospital, we met Bruno*, a small 11-year old boy. He was shot in the head on the last day of 2013 when the men attacking his home couldn’t find his father. An x-ray clearly shows the bullet that lodged in the left side of Bruno’s skull.
A doctor at the UNICEF-supported hospital removed the bullet, and Bruno’s head is now wrapped snugly in white bandages.
He is recovering, but his mother still worries. Bruno is now partially paralyzed on his right side and can’t hold up his x-ray with his right hand.
Bruno is one of several children being cared for at the hospital who were injured in the recent violence in Bangui, explained Dr. Simplice Kanago. In the next room, a 3-year-old boy’s arm is wrapped thickly with bandages. He was shot in a retaliation shooting. Down the hall, a 14-year old boy recovers from a bullet in his leg.
The children’s anguish and pain is distressing and shocking. Many of these children seem to have been targeted — deliberately shot.
UNICEF assistance to the hospital is extensive: health kits, emergency health care support and nutrition supplies. UNICEF has also helped to fund the desperately needed expansion of the hospital’s nutrition center.
According to Dr. Kanogo, who has been sleeping at the hospital for the past three weeks for safety, the hospital’s caseload of severely malnourished children has almost tripled in recent weeks.
Conflict and insecurity has taken a terrible toll on the nutritional status of children. UNICEF support helps the hospital keep all treatment to injured and malnourished children free of charge.
* Bruno’s name has been changed to protect his identity.