Many people in the Central African Republic suffer from ‘a posttraumatic stress disorder’, caused by the war situation. The United Nations and particularly Unicef, asked the Brothers of Charity to share their expertise in mental health care. Today, only 24 beds are available in the entire country for the care and treatment of psychiatric patients. That’s why we decided in 2015 to set up an initiative for the care of youngsters with a posttraumatic stress disorder. For that reason, two buildings were bought in Bangui. An international team of experts will be engaged to elaborate this initiative. We hope to be active by 2016.
Psychiatry in the deeply traumatized Central African Republic
Christian militias, called the Anti-balaka, started to fight against the rebels of the Islamic rebel movement Seleka in September 2013, after the latter conquered a substantial part of the Central African Republic (CAR) and overthrew the government in March 2013. A deadly spiral of violence and retaliations followed. The violence reached Bangui, the capital city, by December 2014. Over 100,000 people, one quarter of the population of Bangui, fled right away. In other cities too, many decided to flee. Tens of thousands crossed the border into Congo, Congo-Brazaville, Chad or Cameroon. The United Nations Security Council decided to send Peacekeeping Forces to the CAR in April 2014. Nevertheless, the violence was still spreading in Bangui, the capital city of the CAR.
Both parties committed large scale human rights violations. The violence was horrible and extreme, and the fighting parties created huge numbers of victims among the civilians. Large parts of the population were deeply traumatized and will suffer for many years of post-traumatic stress disorders. There’s barely any professional care for these traumatized patients, among them also many children. Only a handful of foreign NGOs offer trauma help, but only for a very short period of time, there’s no mental health care in the long term.
The lingering conflict in the Central African Republic is a longstanding, forgotten crisis. More and more aid organizations are retreating out of the country and the tv-cameras are focusing on other crises in the world (Syria, refugees crisis, , etc.).
The Brothers of Charity have been present in Bangui for four years now. They run a social service in the central prison. They provide medical help, educate people and organize sports activities for the 700 prisoners who are locked up in humiliating circumstances.
The Brothers of Charity want to establish a psychiatric consultancy service in Bangui which would primarily focus on children and youngsters with post-traumatic stress disorders. This can grow into a full-service psychiatric center. The mental health care that is currently being provided by the government, is completely inadequate. There are only 24 beds for psychiatry in the general hospital and a part-time doctor for a population of over 5 million inhabitants... Harrowing. Furthermore, the patients have to buy their medicines from the pharmacy themselves. However, psychotropic medication is often unavailable there, or is too expensive for the desperately poor population.
Consequently, most patients don’t get the care they need or only get psychosocial help for a very short time, provided by an emergency aid organization, but without permanent follow-up afterwards. Even their family doesn’t know what to do and a lot of people end up on the street. Social exclusion and a lack of medical care take them further down. With a permanent psychiatric consultation office, that will be run by the local brothers and with the support of local contributors, the Brothers of Charity want to establish a sustainable initiative for mental health care, an initiative that can help the local population, even in the long term.
Bangui, Central African Republic
Mental health care
Ambulatory mental health care