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Humanitarian leadership urges the world not to neglect the Central African Republic

28 Apr 2017
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Credit: OCHA/G.Cortes

Senior humanitarians today urgently appealed to the world not to neglect the Central African Republic (CAR) where conflict and frequent upsurges of violence has uprooted 884,276 persons - one-fifth of the population - aggravated hunger and malnutrition and prevented aid from reaching people in extreme need.

“The people of CAR need our support now, said Najat Rochdi, Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR. “Indifference and neglect is not an option because peace is at stake. We cannot risk this country spiralling back into chaos whose effects will be felt far beyond CAR’s borders.” Regional representatives of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations just wrapped up a four-day visit to CAR where they met affected communities, civil society, donors, aid workers and authorities in Bangui and in the northwest prefecture of Ouham-Pendé, which has witnessed a recent peak of violence.

Their call for international attention and funding takes on new urgency after an upsurge in attacks in the East and North-west has sparked fresh displacements, and a funding crunch has forced many relief and development organisations to scale back and even close operations. “It is heartening to see how communities can bounce back if they are given the right tools and support,” said Abdou Dieng, the World Food Programme’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “I’ve seen how people are willing to turn a very dark page in their lives and move forward.”

“Responding to the underlying causes of intercommunal violence is key to promoting security and to enabling communities and government services to return. This has proved most successful, when government, civil society and aid agencies work together hand in hand” added Richard Danziger, IOM Regional Director for West and Central Africa. Still, the challenges are sizeable. An uptake in violence last October forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in the eastern and western regions, and humanitarian workers are operating under increasingly dangerous conditions. CAR has registered one of the highest rate of attacks against humanitarians in the world. Six were killed in 2016 alone.

Credit: OCHA/C.Illemassene

Almost half the population - or 2.2 million people - depends on humanitarian assistance to survive. Due to the lack of State presence and services in most areas, humanitarian actors are delivering over 50 per cent of essential services to the population. Continued under-funding of humanitarian action also threatens the provision of life-saving assistance. The US $400 million humanitarian response plan for CAR in 2017— aimed to support 1.6 million people — is only 10 per cent funded. The 2016 response plan requesting over $531 million was less than 40 per cent funded at the end of the year.

In several areas, the withdrawal of humanitarian partners due to lack of adequate funding is already increasing people’s vulnerability as humanitarians are often the only providers of basic social services. “A concerted, swift and sustained effort is needed by international and national partners to build a peaceful and prosperous Central African Republic,” said Yves Habumugisha, West Africa Regional Director for NGO World Vision. “Failing to act now will increase human suffering and affect efforts to mitigate economic and social devastation."

“Progress, slowly but surely, is being made. We, together with the Central Africans, must now adapt our narrative on this country and build on the encouraging developments that have been observed. For example, it is promising to see that refugees in the neighboring countries have started to return although movements are still timid”, added Anne-Marie Deutschlander, UNHCR Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“We have seen signs of progress and opportunities that we must capitalize on; we cannot continue with business as usual,” said Allegra Baiocchi, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Regional Representative for West and Central Africa. “We need to offer tangible solutions to the Central Africans. This implies humanitarian and development actors working towards achieving collective outcomes which - coordinated with the Government’s action - can make a real change. But we need increased security and more resources.”