CAR: OCHA Operations Chief “extremely concerned” about deteriorating humanitarian situation

29 October, New York: OCHA Operations Chief John Ging briefs the media on his return from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: OCHA/P. Palmero
OCHA’s Head of Operations traveled to CAR last week, describing the situation there as “a tinderbox”. But in the Democratic Republic of the Congo he found small signs of change.

OCHA’s Director of Operations, John Ging, said today (29 October) that he was “extremely concerned” about the situation in the Central African Republic, a situation that he described as “a tinderbox”.

“Half the population of the Central African Republic is in need of humanitarian aid,” said Mr. Ging. “There has been a complete breakdown of law and order and the first priority is protection and the restoration of security and stability. The atrocities against civilians are indescribable.”

Mr. Ging was speaking at a press conference in New York, held on his return from a week-long mission to the CAR and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Mr. Ging travelled with the Emergency Directors of several UN agencies and International NGOs.

“The seeds of a profoundly dangerous development”

In CAR, the Emergency Directors travelled to the northern town of Bossangoa. There they met with Muslim and Christian communities that had taken shelter in fear of attacks. They visited a primary school where about 2,000 Muslims have been living since early September, before travelling to a Catholic mission that is now home to about 36,000 Christians.

“This is a new dimension to the crisis,” said Mr. Ging. “We see incitement of religious communities against each other. This is sowing the seeds of a profoundly dangerous development.”

He and his colleagues met with community and religious leaders, asking them to continue working together to calm the situation.

“Our message is that this country needs to come into the international spotlight,” he said. “The scale of humanitarian suffering is among the worst in the world and it’s getting worse.”

DRC: signs of a crossroads

The Emergency Directors also spent three days in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Mr. Ging said there were signs that the “unrelenting humanitarian” crisis was at a crossroads.

“It does stand at a crossroads of new opportunity,” he said. “There are new opportunities and prospects.

“This was my fourth trip to DRC in two years, and the sense from our discussions was that there is a new commitment at all levels, and particularly from the local authorities, to do better."

But despite the severe needs, and despite this new and cautious sense of hope, Mr. Ging said that humanitarian efforts in DRC were being undermined by a lack of funding. To date, only 62 per cent of the US$892 million that aid agencies requested for 2013 have been received.