UN launches emergency aid response to fighting in Central African Republic
Calling it “a major humanitarian crisis,” the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is launching emergency action to provide immediate aid to women and children in the northeast of the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by recent fighting between the Government and rebels.
“Thousands of children have been abandoned to their fate, they are traumatized by the violence and their basic needs are not covered. They need an urgent assistance,” UNICEF country representative Mahimbo Mdoe said of the fighting in which 70 per cent of the houses in Birao, the region’s main town, were torched and virtually all its 14,000 residents uprooted.
UNICEF is supporting the first UN assessment, flying in a joint technical team tomorrow on a two-day mission to evaluate immediate needs and the appropriate response. The agency’s office in CAR is preparing contingency stocks for an emergency operation starting as early as next week. This will include health kits, shelters, blankets, jerrycans and other non-food items.
The area on the border of Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region has suffered from a spill-over of the violence there as well as from fighting between the Government and armed opposition militias that has uprooted over 200,000 people in recent months, about 50,000 of whom have sought refuge in neighbouring Chad, amid reports of summary executions, ethnic violence and burning of villages.
Prior to this month’s fighting, some 14,000 people lived in Birao, but after a visit on Wednesday, UN country humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer estimated that no more than 600 people remain, the rest having fled the violence and believed to be living in the bush.
In addition to the burning of houses, which makes the population’s return virtually impossible before the start of the rainy season in May, the town’s schools and hospital were destroyed or looted.
Overall 1 million people in CAR, a quarter of the population, are affected by widespread and deteriorating insecurity in a country which, according to the UN Human Development Index, is the sixth least developed country in the world. Indicators for maternal and under-5 child mortality, already very poor, and now on a continuing downward decline.