Severe weather conditions plunged Bangui into darkness for weeks
Fifty houses collapsed and eighty were severely damaged on 23 April 2021 in Kodozilo and Danzi villages, 20 kilometers north of the capital Bangui, during a storm with heavy rain. More than 130 families were affected by the severe weather and five people were injured in collapsing houses or by debris blown away by the strong wind. Food stocks and seeds that should have been planted in the coming weeks were also destroyed.
The rainy season has barely begun but has already hit the Central African Republic hard. The torrential rains on 23 April not only affected the people in Kodozilo and Danzi, but also plunged the entire capital into darkness for weeks and made water an even scarcer commodity in a country where only one in three people has access to clean water. The storm damaged several electricity towers in Danzi, which are part of the infrastructure providing electricity from the Boali power station to Bangui, 50 kilometers away.
More frequent and more severe
Natural hazards turning into disasters are becoming more frequent and more severe in the Central African Republic. In October 2019, nearly 100,000 people were affected by floods, including 33,000 in Bangui, a city built on the banks of the Oubangui River. Humanitarians provided multisectoral emergency assistance and most of the displaced were able to return home. In 2020, 22,000 people were affected by floods in eight prefectures and in the capital.
In the dark and in the dry
The damage caused to the electricity towers could not be repaired immediately. The electricity provider Energie Centrafricaine (ENERCA) announced that the power supply to Bangui and neighboring Bimbo would be interrupted for at least ten days. Electricity has always been a scarce commodity in Bangui and the country, with only 32 per cent of the population having access to electricity. People in most neighborhoods of the capital are used to having electricity for a few hours a day, with prolonged interruptions due to recurrent outages, others are not connected to the grid at all or electricity costs remain prohibitive, and people have learned to live with it.
Impact on health facilities
But electricity and water are far from being luxury goods in the health sector. The power outage had serious consequences for the functioning of health facilities in the capital and in Bimbo, although ENERCA had set up a back-up system with fuel-powered generators for essential services, including hospitals and telecommunication. The electricity supply to 75 per cent of the main hospitals and health centres – 12 out of 16 health facilities – was completely interrupted or regularly cut off due to a lack of fuel or functioning generators. The city's water supply was also disrupted due to the reliance on electricity for water treatment and distribution. More than half of the 16 main health facilities in Bangui and Bimbo – nine out of 16 – had their water supply interrupted, with serious implications for hygiene, for example. The water shortage dried up entire neighborhoods for several days.
Rapid humanitarian response
The National Water and Sanitation Agency distributed water with trucks to neighborhoods. Humanitarian partners who regularly support the main hospitals in Bangui and Bimbo responded immediately and repaired generators and provided additional fuel, keeping essential health services running. The World Bank committed to providing generators to ensure the continued management of COVID-19 cases in specialized treatment centers. Under the coordination of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), humanitarian and development partners have been working around the clock with the government to identify solutions to fill gaps and ensure the provision of electricity and water to health facilities. The UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA provided a team of engineers, materials and equipment to speed up ENERCA's repair work on the electricity towers in Danzi village. MINUSCA also provided a high-capacity generator to SODECA to make the pumps running and enable water distribution. The power supply to the capital has been partially restored and repair works are continuing until the capital is adequately lit again.