Green Jewel in the Heart of Africa

A lot has happened in the Central African Republic in recent years, but those who visit the country in the centre of Africa for the first time will notice some differences to Europe during the first few hours on arrival already: Broken or non-existent roads, taxis still carrying passengers and luggage on the roof because they are so crowded, and above all the mobile phone network and the Internet, which in most regions is simply switched off from 10 p.m. onwards. But you get used to all this as soon as you get to know the locals. Already at the airport, which like most airports on this continent is quite chaotic and full of hustle and bustle, the unbelievable friendliness and openness of the people here is remarkable. Entry into the country is no problem at all. Swiftly through passport control, a little friendly small talk with a security man and it’s already on to the baggage claim area.

Driving with a white car that bears our logo and a crossed-out weapon on all sides to identify it as a humanitarian organization vehicle, newcomers to the project travel to Bossembélé, the main location of our project in the Central African Project. From the airport in Bangui up to our project location in Bossembélé, it is, according to the satnav, approximately two and a half hours drive, but due to the broken streets, the drive takes much longer. It is worthwhile to lean back in the car during this time and enjoy the drive. The view from the window fascinates: The Central African Republic is an incredibly beautiful country. The road leads past small lakes or the outflows of a large river, through lush forests and green meadows. The large lorries and forestry trucks that transport the vast amount of the cut down trees and are brought to Cameroon make you think again and again, although it is unclear whether these are official works or not.

Those who arrive at the hospital in Bossembélé for the first time are usually amazed at the size of the site. In the last years we renovated and rebuilt more and more departments step by step, so that the hospital in Bossembélé can now compete with hospitals in Europe.

What happened so far

For years, life in the Central African Republic has been overshadowed by battles between rival militia groups. Religious motives play just as great a role here as political and economic power and the securing of territorial claims and valuable resources. When we started working in the district hospital of the city of Bossembélé, which was the only medical facility for the 130,000 people in the region, it was run down and practically incapable of functioning properly. Fugitive personnel, a lack of medicines and buildings that were ready for demolition made it practically impossible to provide adequate care for the local people.

We therefore began with the reconstruction of the main site in Bossembélé, renovated existing departments, erected new buildings and at the same time optimised the internal infrastructure. This was followed by the construction of further healthcare stations to expand the medical care network. At the moment, investments are being made in Bossembélé to expand diagnostics so that patients can be treated even better. In the near future, we will also expand the possibilities in the laboratory with new devices. Maternity will be supplied with new delivery beds and emergency equipment. In the operating theatre, the instruments have to be replaced to a large extent. These are all investments that will help the hospital on its way to independent administration in the forthcoming years.

What happens next

One of the biggest changes for the local people in the future will be that patients will have to pay for treatment themselves. This is how we want to prepare the hospital to be able to finance itself completely independently at some point, i.e. without international aid. For this purpose, a broad spectrum of diagnostic possibilities is of course helpful. Two healthcare stations in the Central African Republic have already become self-sufficient. In the meantime, the two facilities are generating sufficient income from treatment fees and the sale of medicines to continue the operation on their own authority. In such a large hospital as the one in Bossembélé, this is of course a bigger step than regarding the healthcare stations, but with the great local team and the enormous progress we have made in recent years, we are confident that we will succeed.