Central African Republic: Humanitarian Situation Deteriorates As UN warns Of Social Anarchy

A special UNICEF-chartered flight carrying over 23 tonnes of essential drugs, obstetric supplies and water tanks being unloaded in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui. Photo: UNICEF CAR/Dede Mambeanre
A special UNICEF-chartered flight carrying over 23 tonnes of essential drugs, obstetric supplies and water tanks being unloaded in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui. Photo: UNICEF CAR/Dede Mambeanre

The humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) continues to deteriorate, with massive unrest and large-scale displacement across the country nearly three weeks after armed rebels seized power, the United Nations reported today.

“Communities affected by the crisis are in urgent need of food assistance, protection, healthcare, and water and sanitation support and there are serious concerns about widespread human rights violations across the country,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update.

“The ongoing humanitarian efforts have been hampered by insecurity and limited access to people in need,” it added, calling on all parties to facilitate access for all aid workers who need to reach affected communities with life-saving relief items such as food, water, shelter and medical supplies.

As of last week, nearly 40,000 people had fled the country, and on Tuesday the head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR (BINUCA), Margaret Vogt, told the Security Council via video link from Bangui, capital of the impoverished country, that a return to legality is extremely critical.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that the country’s entire population of some 4.6 million people, including over 2.3 million children, is directly affected by the conflict due to the collapse of services and law and order. UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the country have also been affected as they had their offices, vehicles and warehouses looted.

The country has been wracked by factional violence for years, especially in the north. Last month a group rebels entered Bangui and forced President François Bozizé to flee.

In another development, it is being claimed that since violence flared up  in the troubled  Central African Republic (CAR) in December, more than 37,000 people have fled the country.

The United Nations refugee agency said recently that it is an indication that things are getting worse as the refuge crisis deepens.

“The help needs of these refugees are significant. Many left their homes in a hurry and were unable to bring personal belongings with them,” the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva.

“People are either without places to live or being accommodated by local families – who themselves live in extreme poverty,” he added.

Since December, 30,876 refugees have found asylum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 5,600 have fled to Chad, and 1,024 arrivals have been registered in Cameroon.

The refugees are mainly from the capital, Bangui, which was seized by rebels of the Séléka coalition last month, as well as the cities of Bangassou, Rifai and Zemio in the south-eastern part of the country.

“We are working with authorities in all three receiving countries to provide protection and assistance,” Mr. Edwards said. “Our teams across the region are registering the refugees, distributing aid and setting up emergency shelters. We are also working with our humanitarian partners to provide health and education support wherever possible. This is often in remote and hard to reach locations.”

Mr. Edwards said refugees are scattered along a 600-kilometre stretch of the CAR border, and UNHCR is focusing on moving them into camps to be able to provide them with assistance.

In DRC, UNHCR is planning to expand already established camps, and in the North-Ubangi District, it has begun clearing 400 hectares of land to create initial capacity for at least 10,000 refugees. The agency also plans to build six transit centres in addition to the main centre at Bondo in the Orientale Province.

In addition to the 37,000 CAR refugees, some 173,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence. Mr. Edwards said UNHCR has not been able to provide adequate humanitarian assistance to those displace inside the country due to the volatile security situation.