16 November 2016

Testimony of Zita, a woman in Kabo who brought her sick daughter to the MSF health centre for care.

Zita came to the Kabo health centre, in the north of CAR, 10 days ago. She came with her two daughters Marie, two years old, and Nelpha, five months. They come from Ngoumouru, about 50 km from Kabo, where there is no health post. They walked 20 km from Ngoumouru to Farazala and then were referred on a motorbike by MSF to Kabo. It took them a whole day to get to their destination.

Marie fell ill two to three months ago. She suffered first from malaria, which then brought on severe malnutrition. Zita had brought her daughter to the health centre in Ouandago, close to the family home. There, they gave her paracetamol and sent her home with her child.

They then stayed at home, hoping that Marie’s condition would improve. Zita did not want to take the roads, for fear that they would be attacked by armed men.

Zita was fearful of bringing her daughter Marie to the Kabo health centre because of the threat of armed men on the roads. Photo: Sandra Smiley/MSF

 “I don’t usually travel on the roads due to the security situation. There are often armed men on the roads demanding things from the people who try to pass by. Even if you are on a bike or a motorcycle, they harass you for money. Even if you are trying to transport a sick person. If you are on foot, sometimes they’ll let you pass without asking for anything. That is why we came on foot. We can’t spare the money to pay them: they could demand 250 to 500 Francs CFA each time.” (Note: a dollar US is equal to 590 Francs CFA, and a small pot of vegetables sufficient to feed a family for a day costs about 650 Francs CFA)

The last time that she was robbed was about a week before she left for Kabo. At 1 am, three armed men arrived at the house she lives in with her husband, her two girls, and nine other family members. The men began yelling, demanding money, and beating people.

They started shooting. One of her family members needed medical attention, having been wounded in the leg.

Recently, Zita says, there have been fewer robberies than usual. But that is because of the temperature, rather than to politics. “We’re in the rainy season, so there is less dry grass by the roadside. The bandits have fewer places to hide,” she says. “Once the dry season starts, it is going to get worse again.

Previously, Zita was a cultivator. But even the fields are now controlled by the armed men, who stop farmers from working their fields in order to allow their cattle to graze there.  Zita now forages for wild yams in the forests not far from her home.

She goes with a group of women for their security. They know they could still be attacked, but they have no other choice but to go.

Two-year-old Marie is suffering from edema and malnutrition. Her mother, Zita, was fearful of bringing her to the Kabo health centre because of the threat of armed men on the roads. Photo: 
Sandra Smiley/MSF

As Marie’s condition got worse, Zita decided to leave her home and take the road to the health centre with her two girls and her husband, despite their fears. Thanks to the care Marie has received over the last ten days at the Kabo health centre, she is recovering. She is still weak, though, and her face is still puffy from edema.

“Before, it wasn’t like this. We managed to live together peacefully,” Zita says

Since 2006, MSF teams have been providing medical assistance to more than 50 000 people in Kabo. From January to June 2016, MSF carried out more than 30 000 consultations at the Kabo health centre (one-third of which were for malaria) and assisted at more than 600 births. Nearly 2700 people received hospital care.

Find out more about MSF's work in the Central African Republic.