Since our first report on the Central African Republic, the situation in the capital city of Bangui remains grave. Sadly, even little children are now being recruited into armed conflict -- or worse. Many have suffered gruesome attacks. As the violence approaches unprecedented levels, Salesian missionaries continue to shelter and care for increasing numbers of displaced persons.
As of this report, more than 60,000 men, women and children have fled to two Salesian Centers in the capital -- up from 20,000 just a few weeks ago. The resulting strain on resources makes living conditions extremely difficult; and the lack of adequate security means that distributing food, water and medical supplies can be downright dangerous. One relief worker from a partner organization suffered a broken leg while fending off a mob of anxious, hungry people.
Still, the Salesian missionaries working on the ground remain committed to emergency relief efforts and ministering to those in the shelters.
Partners including UNICEF, Save the Children, the World Food Program are working closely with the Salesian missionaries in this regard. More than 1,000 people have received urgently-needed medicine; significant amounts of maize, beans, and bottled water have already been distributed; and many of the homeless have received mats, blankets and sheets to sleep on. At night, missionaries lead prayer services and show movies as a means of distraction to soothe anxiety.
Hygiene remains a significant challenge, however, as the overcrowded conditions -- coupled with heavy rains -- are creating unsanitary conditions throughout the centers. Worse, this overcrowding means that Salesians have already been forced to turn some people away. During a recent outbreak of fighting, they could only accommodate one of three gravely injured victims.
The need remains critical.
“The sanitary emergency and the lack of means are adding to the growing tension among the people,” reports the Rector of one of the Salesian communities in Bangui. “They are living in inhumane conditions. We are in a confused situation where nobody’s life is safe.”
Despite such overwhelming circumstances, the Salesian missionaries are pressing on -- praying for a peaceful resolution while providing pragmatic assistance to as many people as possible.
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