Violence in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, is “out of control,” with fighting between Christians and Muslims resulting in lynchings and machete attacks, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said.
Since early last month teams working in several medical projects in Bangui have treated more than 1,000 victims of violence, the medical humanitarian organization founded in France in 1971, said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.
“People are coming in with machete wounds to the head, hands and arms,” Laurent Sury, emergency coordinator of MSF in Bangui, said in the statement. “We’ve also seen people who have been stabbed, sometimes multiple times, in the abdomen, and people who have either been tortured or brutally beaten. For the most part, these are young men.”
The Central African Republic was plunged into lawlessness after rebels overthrew Christian president Francois Bozize in March and Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, was appointed as national leader.
Fighting between militia from the Christian majority and Muslim rebels flared up on Dec. 5.
About 370,000 people, almost half the population of Bangui, have been displaced over the last three weeks, UNICEF said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. About 875,000 people have been internally displaced throughout the country since the outbreak of violence more than a year ago.
At least two children have been beheaded in the fighting, UNICEF said, adding “unprecedented” levels of violence were being committed against youngsters.
UNICEF said that of the two children beheaded, one had also been mutilated. It also said it could verify the deaths of at least 16 children and 60 injured since the outbreak of fighting last month.
“We are witnessing unprecedented levels of violence against children,” UNICEF representative in Central Africa Souleymasne Diabate said.
“More and more children are being recruited into armed groups, and they are also being directly targeted in atrocious revenge attacks,” he said. “Targeted attacks against children are a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and must stop immediately.”
UNICEF said children forced into fighting by both sides in the conflict should be immediately disarmed and be protected from any reprisals. It also called for centers to be established for the “reintegration” of children as well as protect those still at risk.
Health facilities have also been affected by the violence, MSF said. An armed man entered a dispensary, medical teams were forced to temporarily evacuate a hospital and Ministry of Health staff were threatened, MSF said.
“The atmosphere is becoming increasingly tense with each of these ‘visits’ as the attackers become more and more aggressive,” Thomas Curbillon, MSF’s head of mission in Bangui said in the statement.