The situation in the Central African Republic remains highly volatile and those displaced by violence are still traumatized, despite a general improvement in some areas, a senior United Nations humanitarian official said today as she wrapped up a five-day visit to the country.
“Fear is very evident amongst the people who had to repeatedly leave their villages and watch their homes and livelihoods being looted, burned and destroyed,” Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg told a news conference in the capital, Bangui, on the last day of her visit.
She noted that while some people did start to return home during 2008, hostilities in 2009 have led to further displacement and slowed the momentum of return.
“I hope that the efforts being made by all parties to restore peace and security will help limit further displacement and encourage voluntary return,” said Ms. Bragg, who also serves as the UN’s Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.
She said that one of her greatest concerns was the protection of civilians and respect for their rights, an issue she raised during meetings with the national authorities. She asked the authorities and their partners to assume their responsibility for protecting the population, and urged officials to guarantee unhindered access for humanitarian workers to those in need.
Another concern is the persistent lack of funding, which has decreased significantly in 2009 compared to previous years. Current requirements amount to $97 million, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which adds that $48 million remains outstanding.
In addition to meeting with internally displaced persons (IDPs) and national and local authorities, Ms. Bragg also held discussions with aid workers and members of MINURCAT, a multidimensional UN peacekeeping mission deployed in northern CAR and eastern Chad.
Among the towns she visited was Birao – located close to the border with both Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan – which last month witnessed deadly inter-ethnic violence that displaced several thousand inhabitants.
Ms. Bragg told reporters her visit had helped her to appreciate that the situation in CAR is unique and not entirely the result of a spill-over from other conflicts from neighbouring countries.