|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Humanitarian Situation in Central African Republic,
Democratic Republic of Congo
Armed groups in the Central African Republic had committed “indescribable atrocities” and “instilled widespread fear” among all communities, John Ging, a senior humanitarian official said today at a press conference at United Nations Headquarters.
Mr. Ging, Director of Operations for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, spoke following a six-day visit to the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He wanted to convey his “extreme concern” about the humanitarian situation in the countries and declared that the international community “cannot walk away from their responsibility in this part of world”.
According to him, the crisis in the Central African Republic had long been forgotten, but with a breakdown in law and order due to a takeover by armed groups, the situation had become chaotic with more than half the country’s 4.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
Mr. Ging, who was accompanied on the visit by emergency directors from the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations and their international non-governmental organization partners, reported that communities were seeking shelter in appalling humanitarian conditions. In the Central African Republic town of Bossangoa, 35,000 Christian civilians, fearing attack by armed groups, sought refuge around a church. Not two kilometres away, he noted, the team found a Muslim community in a similar situation. That, he said, was the new dimension to the crisis — inciting communities against one another.
There were a host of problems in the country including a lack of shelter for those displaced, children out of school as a result of classrooms being occupied by others, and an absence of basic facilities such as water and sanitation. All that notwithstanding, Mr. Ging saw prospects of progress when visiting the northern Central African Republic town of Kaga-Bandoro, where the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) had stabilized the area and people had been able to return to their homes.
“This is a country that just does not have an infrastructure of governance; nor does it have an infrastructure of public service,” he observed, explaining that public service and health care throughout the country were entirely dependent on international humanitarian organizations. He said there was no doubt about the sincerity of the transitional Government; however, it did not have the capacity nor the resources to give effect to their good intentions. The team’s message, he noted, was that the country needed to come into the international spotlight.
On the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Ging said the conflict had claimed more than 5 million lives and resulted in another 2.7 million displaced over the course of 15 years. The situation was particularly appalling in the Kivus region of Eastern Congo, where hundreds of thousands had been displaced multiple times. Despite those problems, he said, the country stood at a crossroads of new opportunity; even though the reality was that the situation was still extremely difficult for ordinary people in terms of protection, safety and security. He commended the other international humanitarian partners whom he said were doing “phenomenal work in very dangerous and difficult circumstances”.
In responding to a correspondent’s question on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Ging said the humanitarian funding there was currently at 62 per cent of the $892 million that was required; meaning that much of the basic programming originally planned had not been accomplished due to “severe” underfunding.
On a question on the Central African Republic, he said it was his responsibility to communicate the chaotic, dangerous and desperate situation and plight of the civilian population as each community was being targeted by armed elements from the other community. Asked if he planned to request the Security Council’s intervention in the country, Mr. Ging said he did not believe he should be “straying” into making political statements about what should be the exact nature of the response from the Council.
Mr. Ging noted that his job as a humanitarian was in the first instance to communicate; and in the second instance, to mobilize a humanitarian response, and what he was doing was to communicate the reality on the ground. It was for the Security Council and anybody else to decide what the most appropriate mechanisms for intervention to support and protect the population.
* *** *For information media • not an official record