CAR: International community must act now, urges UN Humanitarian Chief

14 Aug 2013

14 August 2013, New York: UN Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos, briefs the Security Council on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic. The country's entire population - an estimated 4.6 million people - has been affected by the crisis. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos has warned the Security Council that the Central African Republic could become a failed state unless swift action is taken by the international community.

The United Nation’s Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos, has warned the Security Council that the Central African Republic could become a failed state unless decisive action is taken by the international community.

In a briefing to the council, Ms Amos talked of the dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the country in recent months. “(It) has shifted from being a long-term crisis of poverty and chronic vulnerability to a complex emergency characterized by violence, acute needs and grave protection issues,” she said.

“If inadequately addressed, this crisis threatens to spread beyond CAR’s borders and to further stabilize a region already facing significant challenges.”
The UN now estimates that the entire population of CAR – 4.6 million people – has been affected by the country’s “complex emergency”. The situation began to deteriorate in late December 2012, when rebels seized northern cities before marching south towards the capital Bangui. The Séléka Coalition – an alliance of rebel groups – seized power in March 2013. But despite the creation of a transitional government, insecurity has persisted, and public services have ground to a halt.

1.6 million people in dire need of assistance

Ms Amos said that of the 4.6 million people affected, 1.6 million are in dire need of assistance, including food, protection, health care, water and sanitation. In July, she travelled to CAR with the European Commissioner for aid and crisis response, Kristalina Georgieva and saw first-hand the desperate need of people across the country.

“We heard reports of armed attacks against civilians, illegal detention, torture and abductions (and) of widespread sexual violence, with women and children again paying a heavy price,” she said.

“The already fragile healthcare system is overwhelmed. Basic drugs cannot be purchased locally (and) the risk of disease outbreaks is very high.”

Most public service officials have fled fighting, leaving humanitarian organizations to try to provide basic services for many communities.

UN presence to expand

Despite significant constraints, aid agencies in CAR have been able to reach some vulnerable groups. They have provided nearly 160,000 people with food assistance and nutrition programmes and 590,000 people with clean water and improved sanitation, and an estimated 200,000 have received health care support. But Ms. Amos stressed that the proportion receiving assistance was tiny compared to the needs throughout the country.

The UN and many of its partners have been largely confined to the capital Bangui because of persistent security concerns. However, Ms Amos said today that UN staff are now in the process of deploying beyond the capital and to cities and towns across the country.

“NGOs have played and continue to play a significant role; many remained present in the areas worst affected by fighting,” she said. “The establishment of a UN presence in new areas will provide assistance and much needed protection,” she said.

The consequences of a failure to act

Ms Amos urged the Security Council to take steps to restore security and stability to CAR and called on its members to remind all parties to the conflict of their responsibilities under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.
She also highlighted the critical funding needs of humanitarian agencies. “Only 32 per cent of the US$195 million required has been raised to date,” she said, warning that critical sectors such as water, sanitation and hygiene are less than 10 per cent funded.

“CAR is not yet a failed state but (it) has the potential to become one if swift action is not taken,” Ms Amos concluded. “The failure to act now could not only prolong and exacerbate the appalling conditions the people of CAR have had to endure, but could also see the crisis spread beyond its borders and throughout a region already facing enormous challenges.”