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CAR: Millions still need life-saving assistance

16 Dec 2016


Insecurity and attacks on aid workers have led to the temporary suspension of many humanitarian activities. The 40 per cent of the population who depend on aid to survive are now at risk.

Four years into a crisis that left 2.2 million people in need of life-saving assistance, civilians are bearing the brunt of renewed violence. The increasing violence in Kaga Bandoro, Nana Gribizi Province, has jeopardized significant achievements, particularly those in social cohesion and reconciliation. Attacks on civilians have further displaced thousands of people seeking refuge at a spontaneous displacement site close to the MINUSCA site. There are 434,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in CAR as of 30 November 2016.

Credit: IRC/David Belluz

When violence erupted on 12 October, people began building makeshift shelters at the entrance of the MINUSCA site in Kaga Bandoro. Jacqueline Mbangaja (in front), 24, is a mother of five. She is seeking refuge at the site with her husband and children. “We decided to set up our shelter right next to the MINUSCA gate because it makes us feel more secure,” she said. “Our house is occupied by armed men and we cannot go back home. We will feel safe to return after they have been disarmed and our house liberated.”

Credit: OCHA/L. Fultang

Dieudonné Bandoro, 32, lives at the MINUSCA site with his wife and three children. They lived at the Catholic Mission site for three years, but it was burned down during the recent upsurge of violence. “I’m tired of moving from one site to another,” he said. “I want the security situation to improve so that my family can move back home. My children are out of school, and I am worried about their future.” Security and access to education are priority needs in Kaga Bandoro.

Credit: OCHA/L. Fultang

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in three children in CAR does not attend school. In Nana Gribizi Province, 31,000 children are not attending school. This is due to insecurity and lack of teachers, as they have fled the region to seek refuge. However, close to 8,000 children in Kaga Bandoro have returned to school, as the security situation improved. Seven schools have reopened in the city, and UNICEF has set up a temporary learning space for displaced children. Despite the volatile and unpredictable security situation, humanitarian organizations are committed to staying and delivering life-saving assistance to affected people. On 17 October, 26,000 people in Kaga Bandoro received initial 15-day emergency food rations from the United Nations World Food Programme. The hospital in Kaga Bandoro reopened on 19 October. Since then, it has carried out 2,220 consultations and delivered 63 newborns. Nineteen survivors of gender-based violence, including two minors, received psychosocial and medical assistance and non-food items. An average of 80,000 litres of clean water per day is supplied through water trucking to the MINUSCA site.

Credit: OCHA/L. Fultang

Despite these achievements, the humanitarian situation remains critical. The provincial hospital caters for about 158,000 people, but the majority of its medical staff fled armed violence to seek refuge away from the town. The hospital has no medical doctor, and less than 3 per cent of its remaining medical staff are qualified. Women and children mostly bear the consequences of the attacks on health institutions. They queue daily at the paediatric ward to receive treatment. Frustrated, some leave without being consulted.  

Credit: OCHA/L. Fultang

At the Brussels Conference on 17 November, the CAR Humanitarian Coordinator, Fabrizio Hochschild, spoke about the fragility of CAR’s humanitarian situation. “Today, 40 per cent of the population depends on humanitarian assistance to survive. It is a matter of life and death for many Central Africans,” he explained. “Humanitarian assistance is essential to save lives and also as a stabilizing factor while recovery efforts begin. The recovery and peace consolidation plan and the 2017+ Humanitarian Response Plan have been developed in perfect synergy. The main objective is that in the long term, the need for humanitarian aid is reduced, paving the way for development initiatives.” Donors pledged US$2.28 billion at the Brussels Conference for the recovery and peace consolidation plan.  

Credit: OCHA/L. Fultang

The OCHA CAR Head of Office, Joseph Inganji (far left), meets with humanitarian workers to discuss challenges in delivering life-saving assistance. “Persisting attacks and robberies on humanitarian organizations is having an adverse effect on relief efforts,” he explained. “Many activities have been temporarily suspended due to insecurity. I call on all parties to respect and protect humanitarian workers who are working hard to provide assistance to thousands of people affected by the crisis. These attacks must stop.”

Twenty-four aid workers have been killed in CAR since December 2013, including six in 2016. The recently launched 2017+ Humanitarian Response Plan for CAR is requesting $399.5 million to respond to the emergency needs of the most vulnerable people.