BANGUI (Reuters) - Armed groups in Central African Republic have forced thousands to flee and pushed government and medical services close to collapse four months after rebels seized the capital, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) said on Tuesday.
Attacks and looting were common in Bangui, where a transitional government that includes some of the rebels has failed to keep order, MSF said in a report ahead of a visit by U.N. and European Union humanitarian chiefs on Thursday.
"The country is in the grip of a humanitarian emergency while the international community looks on with indifference," the aid group said.
Seleka rebels, led by Michel Djotodia who is now the interim president, marched into the riverside city on March 24, forcing former President Francois Bozize to flee.
The grouping of five rebel movements launched its insurgency in December, accusing Bozize of reneging on a 2007 peace deal.
The country bordering Chad, Sudan and four other countries in the heart of the continent has been plagued by unrest and poverty since its independence from France in 1960, despite its rich mineral deposits.
Since taking over, the interim government led by Djotodia has failed to control its fighters who have been accused of reprisal killings and other atrocities.
No one from the interim government was immediately available to comment on the MSF report on Tuesday.
MSF said there was a complete absence of state authority in the rest of the country, which was at the mercy of armed groups.
"U.N. agencies and many non-governmental organizations have withdrawn to the capital, leaving the majority of the country without aid ... The people have effectively been abandoned just when they most need help," it said.
State buildings, ministries, schools, hospitals and private homes have been looted. Most civil servants have fled.
"These attacks have deprived an already vulnerable population of 4.4 million people spread across a country bigger than France, access to even basic medical treatment," it said.
"Malnutrition and preventable diseases are rife, while malaria is the leading cause of death," it added.
MSF mission head, Ellen van der Velden, said there were a third more malaria cases than the same last year.
The country already has the second-lowest life expectancy in the world, at just 48 years.
(Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Andrew Heavens)