Central African Republic: Reopening people’s access to life-saving aid
TitleCentral African Republic: Reopening people’s access to life-saving aid
Humanitarian partners demonstrate water purification techniques to people in Ouadda. Credit: OCHA/Virginie Bero
For the past three years, persistent violence and damaged roads had made Mingala town in Basse-Kotto, a district in the Central African Republic (CAR) inaccessible for aid workers. The affected people of the town had not received humanitarian assistance for a long time and felt abandoned.
That changed in November 2019, when a team of humanitarian workers arrived to assess the condition of the 400 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and their host families in the town. The team had chartered a helicopter to asses flood-affected areas and decided to seize the opportunity to evaluate the needs of people in hard-to-reach areas.
The team not only identified what people most wanted but brought supplies of essential household items, education supplies and dignity kits for girls and women.
“You are restoring our joy because there is no one left here to help us”, said Nadine Nguereguele a 19-year-old resident of Mingala town who welcomed their arrival.
The team got the opportunity to interact with local NGOs such as Organisation Des Femmes Centrafricaines (OFCA). Marie-Lucienne Walimba, head of OFCA, commended the humanitarian community for providing this initial assistance. She told the team about the affected people’s loss of personal belongings during widespread looting in villages and surrounding areas during recent armed attacks. “The women who come to see me have lost everything during lootings. They have no money and ask me for very basic things like kitchen utensils,” she said.
Hindered by insecurity and poor roads, the humanitarian community has been slowly trying to gain access to the affected people in CAR.
The upsurge of violence often results in the suspension of humanitarian activities, seriously affecting aid delivery to people in dire need of emergency assistance.
In 2019, 306 incidents directly affecting humanitarian personnel or property were recorded in CAR. Five humanitarian workers were killed in 2019. In October and November 2019, five humanitarian organizations had to temporarily suspend their activities.
Malnutriton screening in Sam Ouadja (Haute-Kotto Prefecture). Credit: OCHA/Ingrid Bokosset
Besides the insecurity, CAR is a landlocked country with poor roads that become particularly inaccessible during the rainy season between May and October. With a surface area of 622,980 square kilometers – about the size of France, only 2.5 per cent of the road network in CAR is paved.
As a result of these constraints, the humanitarian community relies on the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) and organized reconnaissance helicopter flights. During the torrential rainfall and floods in October 2019, humanitarian workers flew to the affected areas to conduct assessments and deliver life-saving assistance.
“The helicopter enabled the humanitarian community to provide emergency assistance to people in regions which are otherwise inaccessible due to poor road infrastructure”, said Mr. Gian Carlo Cirri, World Food Programme Country Director in CAR. “We are determined to reach men, women and children in need of help wherever they are located countrywide, and we will not relent until this objective is attained.”
For this reason, the chartered helicopter initially scheduled to operate for a month from October 2019 was extended for an extra month – until 15 January 2020.
In continuing the quest to provide aid to people in hard-to-reach areas countrywide, another humanitarian team visited the towns of Ouadda and Yalinga (Haute-Kotto prefecture) in December 2019. According to local authorities, more than 8,000 people live in villages around Bria, Yalinga and Ouadda. The people in the area were pleased to see aid workers on their soil. They lamented the lack of assistance since the departure of humanitarians in 2006 because of armed violence.
The team provided 2.2 tons of emergency aid including water, sanitation and health care supplies.
CAR remains one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarian workers. According to the 2020 CAR Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), 2.6 million people, almost two-thirds of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, half of whom are children. The humanitarian community is requesting US$ 401 million to assist 1.6 million of them with severe needs.