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Humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic “continues to deteriorate” : ASG Ursula Mueller

05 Sep 2019

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ASG Mueller meets with IDP representatives at the PK3 IDP site in Bria (Haute Kotto Prefecture). Credit: OCHA/Florent Vergnes

Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, visited the Central African Republic (CAR) from 29 August to 4 September 2019. This was her second mission to the country as ASG.

Ms. Mueller travelled to the towns of Bria, Alindao and Bangassou, where she saw first-hand the effects of the crisis on the lives of the men, women and children. “The humanitarian situation is dire and deserves more international attention,” she said. “Since my last visit, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 2.5 million to 2.9 million people in 2019. Nearly two thirds of the population need humanitarian assistance and protection, more than half of whom are children.”

In meetings with key stakeholders, including senior officials and ministers from the Government of CAR, local government authorities, civil society, leaders of armed groups, members of the international and humanitarian communities and displaced persons, she discussed ways to increase support to the ongoing humanitarian response and advocate for protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, as well as for enhanced humanitarian access.

“I have witnessed the level of suffering among people affected by this complex emergency,” Ms. Mueller said. “The humanitarian situation in this country continues to deteriorate. Most displaced people have been forced to flee multiple times and are unable to return home due to continued insecurity and lack of essential services. Spikes of violence in areas of the country that were not previously affected by the conflict are creating new displacement and humanitarian needs.”

Two thirds of the population depend on aid to survive; more than 70 per cent of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. Some 1.8 million people in the country are food-insecure.

Moving testimonies

During her mission, Ms. Mueller heard from dozens of crisis-affected women about their many challenges and the risks they face. “I was appalled and shaken by testimonies from women and girls who are affected by gender-based violence (GBV). They urgently need protection, and survivors need access to medical and psychosocial support,” she said. On average, an alleged GBV incident is reported every 60 minutes in CAR, and 92 per cent of victims are women and girls. 

The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator also met humanitarian actors who are providing life-saving assistance to over 750,000 people every month. However, CAR is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for humanitarians to operate in. So far this year, 3 humanitarian workers have been killed and 26 have been injured.

During her visit, Ms. Mueller stressed the critical importance of protecting civilians. “I appeal to all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and to cease all acts of violence against civilians and humanitarian personnel and assets. This is a message I delivered throughout my mission, including in meetings with representatives of armed groups,” the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator said. “Victims and survivors, including of sexual violence, must receive justice and impunity must end for this society to heal.”

While the conflict continues, humanitarian assistance remains a lifeline for many affected communities. “I thank donors for their generous contributions thus far but much more needs to be done,” said Ms. Mueller. “Existing donors need to scale up funding for the humanitarian response, and we need additional donors to support these efforts.” The 2019 CAR Humanitarian Response Plan requires US$430.7 million but is less than 50 per cent funded. 

“Without additional funding, humanitarians will not be able to sustain and scale up the ongoing response,” Ms. Mueller said. “The people of this country need our help now and we cannot fail them.”