IN THE week in which a French photojournalist was killed
covering the continuing conflict in the Central African Republic, a
humanitarian specialist has said that it is vital the violence does
not stop the delivery of crucial aid.
The body of Camille Lepage, a 26-year-old photographer whose
pictures from the CAR had been widely published, was found by a
French army patrol in the Bouar region, French presidential
officials said on Tuesday.
Serena Badenhorst, a team leader of the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) who in the CAR, said on Wednesday that her team
was working in the same region, and that the area remained
hazardous. LWF are the CAR partner of Christian Aid.
"It's still a dangerous environment to work in," she said. "We
take a lot of security precautions. The humanitarian community does
its best to keep our staff safe, but it is never an entirely secure
Fighting broke out in the predominantly Christian country after
a coup by mainly Muslim rebels, known as the Seleka, in March
Ms Badenhorst said that the main humanitarian needs were
shelter, sanitation, and food. "We also are helping with
livelihoods, which helps address the food needs, but with the
longer term for development. In addition, there is a huge need for
psychosocial support across the population, which is extremely
This psychosocial support involved counselling, but there were
not many professionally trained counsellors in the region, she
said. "LWF is trying to help health-care workers to recognise when
people are traumatised, and refer them for appropriate help. We are
also helping communities to discuss what they have been
Providing ways to deal with the "unimaginable trauma" faced by
many people in the CAR was vital, Ms Badenhorst said.
The interim government, under President Catherine Samba-Panza,
has failed to end the fighting since taking power in January (News, 24
January). Ms Badenhorst said that although the government had
expressed a desire to help co-ordinate humanitarian efforts, it was
"That's a large challenge for development and peace," she said.
"It is still a volatile and unpredictable situation. It is a very
complicated situation, and the causes behind it are very many and
diverse. It is going to be a challenge to bring long-lasting
France has about 2000 peacekeepers in the CAR, and a 5000-strong
African Union force is also present. But the soldiers have largely
failed to stop the fighting, whichhas left thousands dead and
forced up to 50,000 Muslims living in the capital of the Republic,
Bangui, to flee.