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Central African Republic: Floods force thousands to flee their homes

04 Dec 2019


Aerial view of flooded houses in Bangassou (Mbomou Prefecture), 21 November 2019. Credit: OCHA/Maxime Nama

The Central African Republic (CAR) continues to face an unprecedented complex emergency aggravated by the impact of climatic conditions. About 100,000 people have been uprooted from their homes following torrential rainfall and floods in October. More than one quarter of the people affected live in Bangui and Bimbo (Ombella M’poko Prefecture), while others are in the Basse Kotto, Lobaye, Vakaga, Ouham, Nana Gribizi, Ouaka, Basse Kotto and Mbomou prefectures.

Floods have caused extensive damage to infrastructures and livelihoods. More than 10,000 houses have been destroyed, and wells and latrines flooded. In Ouham Prefecture, about 6,700 hectares of farms are flooded. According to the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC), some 1.9 million people in CAR – or 40 per cent of the population – are facing acute food insecurity (IPC Phases 3 and 4) and require emergency assistance. The impact of the floods is exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation.

Most of the people displaced by floods have sought refuge in sites for internally displaced persons (IDP) and are receiving coordinated humanitarian assistance. The findings of rapid assessments reveal the following priority needs: shelter, food, health care, non-food items, education, water and sanitation services.

Herve Anselme Limbombo, a 45-year-old father of four, fled to the Delacours IDP site in Bangui with his family after his house in the Maya Maya neighbourhood was flooded. “We lost our personal belongings and our house has been partially destroyed,” Herve said. “My wife sold vegetables at the local market, which generated some income. All the foodstuff has been lost. Although we have received assistance here, it is not enough. Our standard of living has changed and we can only afford to eat one meal per day now.” 

The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) organized reconnaissance flights that hovered over hard-to-reach areas, enabling humanitarians to assess damage caused by floods. In the riverine towns of Mongoumba, Kouango, Bangassou and Bangui, about 500 houses have been destroyed and an estimated 10,000 people affected.

The floods have increased needs and the vulnerability of the people affected, in addition to jeopardizing their coping mechanisms and resilience. The Delacours site is hosting about 1,500 people, including 35-year-old Mireille Sawa and her four children.

“This is the second time I have been forced to seek refuge. In 2013, we fled violence in Bangui’s Bimbo neighbourhood and sought refuge at the Padre Pio IDP site. Once more, I have lost everything,” said Mireille. “When the water level drops, I would like to return to my house, although it has been slightly damaged by floods. Sanitation assistance would be required to prevent the outbreak of diseases in the neighbourhood.”

Mireille Sawa sits in her makeshift shelter in Bangui’s Delacours IDP site (Ombella M’poko Prefecture), 19 November 2019. Credit: OCHA/Laura Fultang

Similarly, in a rural village called Tondomozoma (Mbomou Prefecture), 36-year-old Nicolas Ngasse, a father of six, sought refuge with a host family after his house flooded. He laments the loss of belongings and not being able to provide for his family.

“I am a fisherman and a farmer. Heavy rains started at the brink of our harvest season for groundnuts and rice. All my crops have been swamped and the increased water level is not conducive for fishing. We have become dependents,” he said.

The humanitarian community in CAR is providing multisectoral life-saving assistance to the people affected countrywide. At the Delacours IDP site, Action contre la faim’s community mobilizing supervisor in CAR, Flore Lakonde, screens children for malnutrition.

“Out of 54 children screened, three were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition and three with moderate acute malnutrition. We have referred them to nutrition treatment centres. Parents are being sensitized on the importance of screenings and treatment for malnourished children,” she said.

So far, humanitarian organizations have screened more than 1,000 children in the Ombella M’poko and Basse Kotto prefectures. Of those, 34 children were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition and 35 with moderate acute malnutrition. Assistance is being provided at treatment centres while communities are being sensitized on appropriate feeding methods for newborns and young children.

With the receding water levels, some IDPs – mostly in Bangui and Bimbo – have started returning to their houses. To prevent the outbreak of epidemics from waterborne diseases, humanitarian workers are providing water, sanitation and hygiene services in the neighbourhoods of return. Services include water purification, waste management, disinfection of water points and the distribution of hygiene kits.

In a country where 2.9 million people – nearly two thirds of the population – need humanitarian assistance and protection, the floods have increased needs. Continuous assistance is required to consolidate gains achieved.

The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for CAR is seeking US$430.7 million to assist 1.7 million people and is 67 per cent funded so far.