Humanitarian Situation Worsens In Central African Republic

The rising sectarian violence and general lawlessness in the Central African Republic presents a growing humanitarian concern. NPR's Rachel Martin speaks with Doctors Without Borders' Sylvain Groulx in the Central African Republic about the the humanitarian and security situation there.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The rising sectarian violence and general lawlessness in the Central African Republic is also a growing humanitarian concern.

To hear more about the escalating crisis in that country, we're joined by Sylvain Groulx from Doctors Without Borders. He is in the capital city of Bangui. Mr. Groulx, thanks so much for being with us.

SYLVAIN GROULX: Thank you.

MARTIN: Can you give us a sense of what you are seeing on the ground? What is the situation like right now?

GROULX: There's a sense, a certain sense of normalcy that is starting to return to the streets. But there's still very, very much tension, fear and there's still quite a few incidents of violence that is still being reported. And we still are receiving wounded on a daily basis.

MARTIN: Last month, a senior U.N. official, named John Ging, said - and I'm quoting here - "We see the seeds of a genocide in the Central African Republic, unless the world stops it." Those are obviously very strong words. Is that what you're seeing?

GROULX: What we're seeing right now is more of a multifaceted armed conflict with different actors and different reasons. As such, we're very, very concerned that this violence is being targeted towards civilians, obviously. And we're very, very concerned that if this is not stopped it might spiral in violence that will be very difficult to stop.

MARTIN: From a humanitarian perspective, there are some - I understand - 150,000 refugees, approximately tens of thousands at the airport in Bangui. What is their status?

GROULX: Oh, we're talking even more than that. The latest figures that I've been able to see is they're talking about 200,000 people in Bangui alone, and that's not withstanding the hundreds of thousands unaccounted for outside of Bangui. Their situation is dire. If you look at the 40-some odd-thousand that are at the airport, they're living out there without any shelter; very, very limited amount of water; food distribution have recently taken place, but they had been for over a week without food. It was a quite a difficult situation for those people.

MARTIN: What is the biggest challenge that your organization and other aid organizations are facing when it comes to addressing the humanitarian crisis?

GROULX: Well, it's the scale of it. And certainly our cry for assistance has been unmet for many, many months. And this is why just a few days ago, we came out for a plea in an open letter, indicating that the U.N. were failing in its commitments towards the Central African population and they needed to scale up the assistance quickly.

MARTIN: Sylvain Groulx, he is the head of the Doctors Without Borders, their mission in Bangui, in the Central African Republic. Mr. Groulx, thank you so much for your time.

GROULX: Thank you.

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MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News.

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