Central African Republic: Deciding to stay

Her first assignment with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was meant to be three months long, but German doctor Sylvia Schaber decided to stay for six. In this blog, she writes about both the inspiration and the hard reality she has found in Bossangoa, Central African Republic.

The work does not stop.

We still have a lot of malaria cases. And now, more and more patients with meningitis are arriving.

So far, we have already treated four patients suffering from meningitis here in Bossangoa. But in the dry season – while it’s winter back home in Germany – the numbers are likely to rise significantly.

Unfortunately, meningitis is often severe and requires days of treatment in the intensive care unit.


Patients in Bossangoa
Patients in Bossangoa

Learning from colleagues

In addition, we currently have two patients with tetanus in the hospital and one person with rabies.

Both are clinical pictures that I have only seen before in lectures and which I have learned a lot about from my Central African colleagues.

Both diseases can be prevented through vaccinations. Unfortunately, though, few people in the Central African Republic are vaccinated.

The lack of vaccination for these dangerous, preventible diseases provides an idea of what the availability of medical care is like here, and how important MSF's presence is on the ground.

However, doing our work isn't always easy, because you can't say that this is a stable country.

Elections last took place in the Central African Republic in 2016. Since then, former university professor Faustin-Archange Touadéra has ruled as a non-party president as the country goes through a transition to peace. In several regions, however, there are still violent disputes.

As a result, our work is regularly affected by uncertainty.

For example, in May we had to temporarily evacuate part of our team from the town of Bambari after an armed robbery in one of our guesthouses.


However, the news I received recently was very pleasing to me – my contract will be extended from three to six months!

I am very happy that I can support the team here even longer.

Right now, I can find my way around the hospital well and cope with snakebites, rabid dogs bites and many other cases. And, also on a personal level, we have all got to know each other better. We have become a team.

So, to my loved ones at home, I'm a little sorry. You may have wished for something different. Luckily, I have family and friends who support me and a boyfriend who knows what it means to me to be here.

At this point, it is time to say “THANKS” to those people. Because such a great, supportive environment helps immensely – if you need advice or consolation, or just to let off steam.

Above all, having the support of my family and friends makes me happy because I know where I can go after my time here, in the hospital at Bossangoa.