Thousands displaced by violence in Central African Republic
Central African Republic (CAR): The Forgotten Crisis.
Bordering some of the most dangerous places on earth,
the CAR is a country in turmoil, ravaged by years of raging conflict
and crushing poverty. 2009. UNTV
In the course of 2008 and 2009, renewed clashes between government troops and rebel groups in the Central African Republic have forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes, perpetuating what the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has called one of Africa’s “neglected emergencies.” Faltering steps towards peace, an upsurge in violence, a foundering economy and a deterioration in the security situation have dampened hopes for an end to a humanitarian crisis that has plagued the country for more than a decade.
More than 300,000 people have been uprooted by violence in the Central African Republic during the last ten years. Fighting between rebels and government forces, complicated by ethnic divisions and disputes over cattle, has pushed growing numbers of refugees into Chad and other neighbouring countries.
Over the last two years, tentative steps have been taken to resolve the internal armed conflict that broke out in the CAR in 2005; the signing of peace accords between government and rebel groups in 2007 and 2008 and the holding of an ‘inclusive political dialogue’ in December 2008 between the government, rebel groups, the political opposition and civil society. Government troops have been fighting armed rebel groups since 2003, when President Francois Bozize came to power.
In 2007 and 2008, a series of peace accords prompted the return of about 100,000 refugees and internally displaced people to their villages. In December 2008, government and rebel representatives met in the capital, Bangui, for a 12-day dialogue that established a broad-based government and an agreement to hold municipal, legislative and presidential elections to be overseen by an independent electoral commission.
The optimism generated was short-lived however. By January 2009, fighting had resumed across the north, forcing nearly 24,000 people to once again flee their homes and villages. Many of the displaced were women and children who sought refuge in makeshift shelters in the bush, where they had no access to clean drinking water or health facilities. Others, caught between a rock and a hard place have fled to Chad and other neighbouring countries.
New rebel groups have emerged amidst increasing ethnic tensions, and the peace process has stalled, with rebels accusing the government of failing to implement the peace accords. Deteriorating security conditions are hampering access to displaced communities, posing an ongoing challenge to humanitarian relief efforts.
- The Central African Republic, a landlocked country of four million people, is presently ranked 178 out of 179 countries on the Human Development Index created by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to rank countries by level of development in terms of their degree of achievement in attaining a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.
- Repeated political crises – including four coups in the last decade – have devastated the economy and caused an overall deterioration of living conditions. The country lacks hospitals, medicines, and other basic services.
- The scarcity of food resources lies at the heart of a vicious poverty cycle. While the country could potentially produce more than enough food to feed the entire population, the routine burning of villages, agricultural land and food storehouses has severely limited agricultural production.
- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides food assistance to 97,000 internally displaced people and 3,000 Sudanese refugees in the country. WFP also provides nutrition support to about 200,000 schoolchildren in the bush and 112,000 malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
- Since January 2009 an estimated 18,000 people have fled the country and 6,000 others are internally displaced. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 136,000 refugees from the Central African Republic now live in neighbouring countries.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
Louise Williams, IDP Advocacy Campaign Officer – CAR
Tel: +236 7018 8064
Fatoumatta Mboge-Jallow, Desk Officer for Central African Republic
OCHA New York
Tel: +1 917 367 0303
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):
Andrew Purvis, Acting Head, Media & Content Unit
Tel: +41 22 739 8158
Charlemagne Kekou Akan, Media Officer, CAR
Tel: +236 21 613 280
World Food Programme (WFP):
Bettina Luescher, WFP Chief Spokesperson, North America
Tel: +1 212 963 5196
USEFUL WEB LINKS:
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
World Food Programme (WFP)
UN News Centre