Unless additional funding is secured for the Central African Republic (CAR), nearly two million desperate people will be forced to go without food and basic necessities, the United Nations said today, as regional leaders attending an African Union summit in Ethiopia discuss ways to stop the ongoing fighting.
UN and humanitarian organizations urgently have requested $551 million to provide vital relief and protection to 1.9 million people across the country over the next three months, but the appeal is only 11 per cent funded, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Briefing journalists in Geneva, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke estimated that about half of the country’s population is in urgent need of basic aid, “Funding is a big issue, and because of the developments on the ground, the initial appeal had been doubled.”
“UN considers CAR as a crisis of the highest priority, along with Syria and the Philippines in the aftermath of the typhoon,” he added.
The lack of proper transport infrastructure is a major obstacle for the more than 4,000 aid staff operating in the country on behalf of at least 76 humanitarian organizations.
The crisis in the CAR – which began when the mostly Muslim Séléka rebels launched attacks a year ago, and has recently taken on increasingly sectarian overtones as militias known as anti-Balaka (anti-machete), who are mainly Christians, take up arms – is the focus of today’s discussion at an African Union (AU) summit.
Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who is representing the UN at the 22nd session of the Assembly of the AU in Addis Ababa said the common AU-UN goal must be to end the “atrocious confrontation” between Christians and Muslims and restore the harmony that had for so long marked relations between the two communities.
In a meeting yesterday, he called on all UN Member States to offer generous donations for the “seriously underfunded” AU peacekeeping mission known as MISCA that is trying to restore stability in the country.
MISCA troops often provide escort for aid distribution, UN World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva.
WFP had received only 14 per cent of the $107 million appeal for the emergency operation in CAR from January to August 2014, including the rainy season which starts in April.
“WFP urgently needs $95 million to immediately distribute life-saving food assistance and to pre-position food stocks before the rains start in April and roads become impassable,” she noted.
Despite the ongoing fighting, the UN agency has provided food aid to 220,000 displaced people in the capital of Bangui and the towns of Bouar and Bossangoa, since the start of the year, according to WFP.