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Central African Republic

In a country in conflict, a single hospital for children

Alexis was shot in the jaw during an attack that killed his father. He has been receiving treatment in the paediatric hospital in Bangui.  Download this video


With more than 2 million children caught in the violence in the Central African Republic, a paediatric hospital in Bangui struggles to provide treatment for the youngest victims of the fighting. 

By Guy Hubbard

BANGUI, Central African Republic, 12 August 2014 – The heat and humidity in Bangui’s paediatric hospital are overwhelming – doctors sweat while treating patients, and mothers fan their sick and injured children. There is no air conditioning, and the operating theatre is far from hygienic, with mould growing on the walls.

Doctors working for Emergency, an Italian NGO, say that since the start of the crisis, in December 2012, Bangui Paediatric has become a war hospital.

“Since the beginning, it’s been war injuries,” Emergency surgeon Antonio Rainone says. “Sometimes, we get four or five patients with bullet injuries. Sometimes we get injuries from a rocket that landed somewhere with five, six kids. Sometimes, now recently, machete injuries are on the increase.”

Forced to flee

The hospital’s wards are filled with injured children like 3-year-old Alexis, who was struck in the face by the bullet that killed his father.

© UNICEF Video
Alexis spent four months in the hospital recovering from his injuries.

“With the arrival of Seleka rebels in the village, we were forced to flee,” says the boy’s mother, who doesn’t want her name to be used. “We hid and lived in the bush for three months. While we were there, three Selekas descended the mountain and suddenly appeared at our makeshift shelter. They came into our shelter, and my husband took Alexis and they fled. I took our other child and ran. They chased me, but when they got close, they realized that I was a woman and they changed direction to go after my husband.”

The attackers tracked down her husband, she says, and shot him several times at close range. One of the bullets also hit Alexis.

Being unconscious saved the toddler’s life, as the rebels left the boy and his father to die. When Alexis finally awoke, his cries alerted villagers who had been searching for him and his father. His mother took him to a clinic, but health workers, unable to treat his injuries, sent them to Bangui. Four months later, they’re still here.

Nowhere else to go

In a courtyard on the hospital grounds, tents have been set up to deal with the influx of malnourished children who have fled the conflict with their parents. The conditions make the process of healing difficult, says Dr. Rainone, but here’s nowhere else to go – it's the only hospital of its kind in the country.

UNICEF is supporting the Bangui Paediatric Hospital with medication, nutrition treatment programmes, renovation of the surgical theatre and construction of a new outpatient unit. In addition, UNICEF is supplying a new generator, an X-ray machine and is providing food for inpatient children and health personnel.

After a long period of recovery, Alexis is able to eat again and has put on weight.

“I've been through a lot at the hospital, but for my little boy, there's definitely been a change. I brought him here in a critical condition – he couldn’t even eat, but now after the treatment he's starting to eat again and is much better,” his mother says. “I want my son to be healthy. And after that, I want him to go to school and to grow up to be an important person.”



UNICEF Photography: Emergencies

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