Confirmation of the deaths of six Red Cross volunteers in Central African Republic (CAR) last week comes with a warning about how dangerous CAR is becoming for humanitarian aid workers.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC) said the six local volunteers were attending a crisis meeting at a health facility in Gambo when they were attacked in what is the third such incident this year. In Gambo, the reports indicated that civilians and medical personnel also died, although the exact details of the attack were not discussed by ICRC.
“The Red Cross Movement calls on armed actors to respect and protect medical personnel, ambulances and medical facilities,” the ICRC statement said. “Armed personnel must not enter health facilities, and all groups must facilitate the evacuation of all sick and injured persons to medical facilities for medical care.”
An Al Jazeera report put the total of fatalities at 30, including the Red Cross volunteers. The deaths come amid increased sectarian violence in the CAR, prompting Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations humanitarian affairs chief, to appeal for increased MINUSCA peacekeeping support and warn that the early signs of genocide are in place. He also warned that some 2,000 Muslims who took refuge in a church in Bangassou are now surrounded by Christian militia and at risk of being massacred, in what seems a return to the conflict that tore at CAR in 2013.
The Doctors Without Borders organization said Thursday that 10,000 people are sleeping in a Batangafo hospital after a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) was torched and looted. The hospitals are no longer places of safety either, they warned.
The violence has taken a particular toll on peacekeepers with nine deaths through July, and humanitarian aid workers. The most recent “Aid in Danger” report from Insecurity Insight for the month of June noted a male Red Cross worker shot in Bangassou on June 26, while a number of aid agency offices were looted in Bria on June 20 as rival armed factions fought near a camp for IDPs. A health care facility in CAR was damaged in a previous attack earlier this year.
The ICRC warns that the violence, and the specific targeting of humanitarian workers, is preventing Red Cross volunteers and personnel from assisting people severely affected by the armed conflict. The organization has lost 24 workers across the globe so far in 2017.
The United Nations Security Council plans a Thursday morning meeting in New York to discuss peace and security in Africa.
Image: United Nations file