Continuing humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic

13 October 2013 | ResolutionPossible

This is the third blog in our latest series about the Central African Republic, following an introduction to the country and an overview of political developments since the coup d’état by the Seleka coalition in March.

A UN report estimates that around 1.6 million people in the CAR are in need of direct and immediate assistance, including food, protection, health care, water, sanitation and protection . To give you an idea, this is roughly the population of a large city like Barcelona, Spain.

CAR village deserted after an attack Photo: PA/Alamy

CAR village deserted after an attack Photo: PA/Alamy

In September it was reported that 400,000 people had been displaced by the violence this year alone. Human Rights Watch released a report last month detailing the abuse of civilians and land all over the country which has contributed to the significant humanitarian crisis.

In spite of the rising need for aid, the presence of humanitarian organisations in the country has reached a historic low.


UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos visiting provincial hospital in Kaga-Bandoro, Central African Republic, in July 2013. Photo: OCHA/C. Illemassene

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos visiting provincial hospital in Kaga-Bandoro, Central African Republic, in July 2013. Photo: OCHA/C. Illemassene

Major security challenges face the remaining humanitarian organisations in the CAR. Most of them have been forced to retreat to the capital, Bangui, meaning hundreds of thousands of citizens no longer have access to the essential services and support they need. Earlier this year, the country director of Caritas was shot and since then other UN and NGO staff have become targets of violence.

Many humanitarian NGO’s have predicted an increase in deaths from common and curable diseases such as measles. In Bangui, measles vaccination programs have successfully reached  122,000 children, but there are 1.5 million children in need of the vaccinations in parts of the country where NGOs have been forced to abandon operations to to lack of authority and security.

Armed groups exploiting aid

Since the beginning of the Seleka movement factions of the group have been connected to the plundering of health facilities and the severe disruption of food distribution systems. Despite this insecurity the World Food Program (WFP) is taking measures to scale up its operations on the ground by reopening sub offices and hiring more staff to ensure delivery of food aid. WFP are one of a minority of aid organisations to receive most of the funds it requested of the UN.

Displacement from farm lands leads to reliance on handouts

“A starving and fearful population faces a dilemma: continue living hidden in the bush or return to crime and human rights violations in urban areas. Most of the displaced are farmers that will probably be unable to return to their fields in time to plant crops for the harvest season.”

— Housainou Taal, WFP Country Director, CAR.

IDPs and cross border refugees in Cameroon and DRC

In addition to the national humanitarian crisis, the instability in CAR has forced many to flee to neighboring countries such as Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These countries are now home to approximately 50,000 refugees, the repercussions of which are yet to be known.

Children joining armed groups for security and food

In this fragile situation, the more than 100,000 displaced children are particularly vulnerable to the risks of sexual abuse and sickness.  According to the UN over 3,500 children under 18 have already been recruited to various armed groups across the country. Many children join these groups simply because it secures them regular food. Others are forced into joining through fear and intimidation.

Calls for intervention

International governments and bodies are not blind to CAR’s state. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has warned that the CAR could become ‘the new Somalia’ if more action is not taken by all actors.  France has a small force in Bangui securing the airport and protecting its local interests. It says it’s ready to increase logistical support, but is urging the African Union to take the lead on resolving the crisis.

ResPoss asks:

Back in April we published a blog looking at the immediate humanitarian impact of the coup d’etat in March, and asked these questions:

As Bangui residents and civil society members return to their daily work and activities, what will change under the Djotodia leadership? Will the alarm over health treatment shortages be quelled or will an intervention be necessary? What role will Djotodia allow local civil society to play as CAR’s people attempt to move forward?

These questions are sadly still relevant today, as the evidence points to a lack of progress in the welfare of CAR’s citizens.

What will it take to change the course of the next few months? How can the obstacles to national and international aid organisations be overcome? Can we expect to see increased leadership from Djotodia, France and the AU?

You can learn more about the Central African Republic on our in depth page.

Contributing research/writers: Lauren Smith, Becky Dale

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