Central African Republic: Facing the horrific

The people of the Central African Republic have faced years of violence and insecurity. Project coordinator Gilles shares the story of just two of them...

Child with an amputated arm

On the night of December 27, 2021, when it felt like the only topic of conversation around the world was Omicron and its health “restrictions”, a tragedy changed the lives of two children forever.

The children live in a small village in the Ouham Pende prefecture in the northwest of the Central African Republic, a country that has experienced more than two decades of conflict.

Why do humans end up committing horrific acts of violence against innocent people?

Entering the family home by force, men slaughtered their father and older brother. Horrified, the children and their mother cried out to sound the alarm in the village. The attackers, armed with machetes, struck the mother fatally and seriously injured the two children.

An MSF emergency team, deployed in the region since October 2021 to provide medical support to victims of violence, immediately took care of the children following their evacuation to hospital.

Despite our rapid intervention, the two children both needed to have arms amputated. They have been left severely injured, orphaned, and mutilated in their childhood.

Unanswerable questions

What they will likely keep forever from that night, however, is the memory of that horrific scene. In their slightly lost expressions, there is no look of accusation, they are still too young. But there is desperation and incomprehension, as they try to understand the inexplicable.

It seems that the insatiable hunger for power obtained by violence defies all solutions...

"Why did they attack us? The youngest of them asks me.

In silence, I repeat his question mechanically - why? Why? As I leave the room to hide my emotions ... I look for an answer, in vain.

Why do humans end up committing horrific acts of violence against innocent people, and in such gratuitous ways against young children?

The wave

At all times, at all ages, this question keeps resurfacing ... only to disappear, like a wave, over time.

Countless political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, criminologists, philosophers, legal experts and other illustrious thinkers have studied how to eliminate, control or reduce violence in societies past and present.

The challenges they will face are unimaginable

However, in humans, it seems that the insatiable hunger for power obtained by violence defies all advanced solutions. When violence is repeated over and over again, we run the risk of seeing the victims as statistics. In fact, violence touches people with histories, families and futures. People who are just like everyone else.


In a country where it is estimated that about three quarters of the population live below the international poverty line and almost a third are far from home because of the conflict, life is already very difficult. These situations of repeated violence add to an already open wound, denying it any chance to heal.

MSF’s intervention saved the lives of these children. But knowing that they will be living with upper limb amputations, the challenges they will face are unimaginable… Mental health support may help ease their loss in a minimal way, but I fear that the rest of their childhoods will be a long ordeal. Writing these lines, I feel useless in the face of this.


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