UN World Food Programme

Dispatches from C.A.R. Episode 3: Among the Killings and Looting, a Baby is Born

Félicité and her baby, just hours old and still unnamed. Photo: WFP/Donaig Le Du

On the evening of 11 July, a baby was born in Boda. I met the tiny little girl and her mother, 18-year-old Félicité, in the early hours of the following day. Félicité was sitting by the fire, just outside a tent, in the camp on the Catholic church compound. The baby was sound asleep. Such a small baby, still unnamed, wrapped in an orange blanket.

I met the tiny little girl and her mother, 18-year-old Félicité, in the early hours of the following day. Félicité was sitting by the fire, just outside a tent, in the camp on the Catholic church compound. The baby was sound asleep. Such a small baby, still unnamed, wrapped in an orange blanket.

The evening the baby was born, Félicité had traveled to Boda from the next town, hoping to sell a few things at the market. The road here is so bad, and the cars are so old, that every trip is a long and exhausting experience.

When she finally got to Boda, Félicité was tired. She fell. The same night, her first child was born – under a tent, in a camp, with no medical assistance. 

Boda embodies the torment of  the Central African Republic. The monument on the town's central square says "Boda la Belle" ("Beautiful Boda"). Sitting on it mid-morning, I could see around – the compound of the Mission to the Central African Republic, the French forces compound, the remains of the post office and of the police station. All the local authorities have long gone.

'It is hard to imagine what Boda was like when it was beautiful'

"Some of the police are back," a resident explained. "They had left because the situation was tense but now they are coming back." All around, I could see the remains of houses and shops. It is hard to imagine what Boda was like when it was beautiful.

The mayor himself is nowhere to be seen on this side of town. He is a Muslim and  has been trapped in the enclave since January, along with thousands of people from across the region. No need to tell the story yet again. A long story of armed groups, looting, burning, revenge, killings. Civilians trying to find shelter in order to save their lives. 

Lately the situation has been much calmer but the status quo is fragile: camps on both sides of town, with the border a tiny stream that no one dares to cross. Hungry people, sick children, dead cattle and abandoned crops.

Sitting next to me on the monument, on that morning, were a group of women. They were trying to sell smoked game, antelopes, monkeys. People here say every single cow in the region has been killed. People came by and looked at their wares, but they did not have money to buy meat, anyway.

As I moved around town, I met Félicité again. She had walked almost one kilometre to come to the hospital with the baby. She waved at me and smiled. I couldn't help wonder how she managed to walk all the way, having given birth a little over 12 hours earlier.

And then, a few hundred metres up the street, I spotted a little sign: "Come and watch the Brazil-Netherlands game tonight". I wish I could tell the football players that thanks to them, in a remote town, in a war-torn country, some people managed to escape from it all for a couple hours. 

That is, if there were enough supporters to pay for the gas that keeps the generator going.