United Nations Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), Stephen O’Brien, concluded today a three-day visit to the Central African Republic (CAR) with a call to the international community to sustain support to avert the risk of a repeat of the devastating large-scale crisis that gripped the country only four years ago.
While acknowledging the tremendous efforts made since the peak of the crisis in 2014, Mr. O’Brien expressed extreme concern at the upsurge of violence in CAR since the beginning of 2017. “This trend puts out at risk the hard-won gains made since 2015 when I was last here,” Mr. O’Brien said. Since January 2014, over 10,000 children have been released from armed groups. In addition, despite a very difficult school year, violence and displacement, children in emergency schools in Bambari and Kaga Bandoro all passed their elementary final exams. “If we do not act now and keep the faith, we will see increasing need and even greater vulnerability of already weakened people. We risk seeing even greater stress on the capacities of humanitarian actors and funding mechanisms.”
During his meetings with the President, the Minister of Planning and the Minister of Social Affairs, international and local humanitarian actors in the field, the diplomatic corps and donor community, he voiced his concern at the “needless rise of violence and its terrible, terrifying and harmful impact on children, women and men”.
“I heard a lot of eye-watering stories during my field visit in Bangassou. Falmata and Amina, two mums of 8 and 3 children had to flee their homes in Tokoyo last May, and are now hosted in the Petit Seminaire site. Their homes were destroyed, they have nowhere to return to. All they ask for is safety and security in their place of origin to be able to start thinking of going home.”
CAR has one of the largest humanitarian caseloads in the world. Nearly 2.4 million people (nearly 1 of 2) depend on humanitarian aid to survive. The daunting challenge of protecting civilians which means keeping children safe, boys from being recruited into armed groups, women from being raped, men and women from being killed and of delivering aid in such a challenging environment – where the safety of humanitarian workers safety is too often put at risk – were also raised by the ERC. “Central African Republic is one of the most dangerous place in the world to be an aid worker today. Since the beginning of the crisis, 24 of them made the most ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in CAR. I salute their courage and their bravery.”
The UN Humanitarian chief reminded all “parties to the conflict of their obligation under international law to protect civilians and to ensure that their basic needs are met”. Indeed, while in Bangassou, he witnessed the dire conditions in which some 2,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from minorities are confined at the local catholic church. “Attacks on religious or ethnic grounds constitute a serious setback in CAR. An end has to be put to these unacceptable acts in order to give peace a chance. I appeal to all parties to engage without any further dialogue and in rebuilding lives of people today and for future generations,” he urged.
“The UN is here to help, not be a target, or hinder political engagement – just use words and dialogue, not weapons, violence or discrimination” he added.
The visit of Mr. O’Brien took place during an upsurge of violence on a scale that has not been seen since 2014, causing forced displacement and an increase in humanitarian needs. At the same time, the humanitarian response is facing chronic underfunding. The continued deterioration of the situation has brought the humanitarian community to revise its Humanitarian Response Plan, which now requires $497 million, but is only 24 per cent funded.
“I urge the international community to sustain its efforts for the sake of the Central African Republic’s people, and for the sake of peace and the future of this country. Central Africans need all of us to do a lot more to turn words and good intentions into concrete actions and concrete prevention. We must not fail going this extra mile” declared Stephen O’Brien.
Photos: OCHA/Yaye Nabo Sene