“The international response in the Central African Republic (CAR) is a recipe for failure. The humanitarian and political neglect will throw the country back into renewed cycles of violence,” Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland has warned.
Since 2017, violence has escalated in several areas, the number of attacks against civilians and aid workers is on the rise, and one out of four Central Africans now live in displacement.
“I was heartbroken to hear the story of a 16-year old mother with her 8-month old baby living alone in the camp of Lazare. Her parents were killed by the armed groups and the father of her baby dumped her with nothing,” recounts Egeland after his visit at a camp for displaced persons in Kaga Bandoro. “There are thousands of single mothers and orphaned children with similar stories here. They are surrounded by armed men and left in hopelessness. We cannot continue to betray them with our silence and inaction.”
Next week, the UN Security Council will meet to renew the mandate of the peacekeeping force, MINUSCA, which is set to expire on 15th November.
“The peacekeeping force is overstretched and under-resourced. It is unable to protect civilians from atrocities. The UN should not just renew the force’s mandate, but must also follow up on the commitment from last year to give it the necessary mandate and resources to prevent conflict and protect civilians from attacks,” said Egeland who is visiting the country.
To address the massive humanitarian needs, Egeland is also appealing for a significant increase in the humanitarian support. So far this year, humanitarian organisations have received less than half of the 500 million dollars needed for relief work.
“The situation in the Central African Republic is a grotesque example of the impossibility of building peace and stability on empty stomachs,” said Egeland.
“Unless access to vulnerable populations and humanitarian assistance is ramped up, all other investments will be money down the drain. Civilians on the ground will be the ones paying the highest price,” he said.
One key problem is that hotspot areas which receive some attention and funding become neglected when the emergency fades, leaving people without necessary support and opportunities to feed themselves or their families. This sometimes allows underlying causes of the conflict to resurface, throwing the area back into full-blown crisis.
“We have to break this vicious cycle in which the Central African Republic is repeatedly engulfed by violence and neglect,” said Egeland.
“It is outrageous how we can allow large parts of this country to slide back into a full-blown conflict”, he added.
The Central African Republic is now the world’s third worst humanitarian crisis behind Yemen and Syria, measured by the percentage of population in need of lifesaving relief.
The Norwegian Refugee Council has been in CAR since 2014 and provides a multi-sectorial assistance: emergency kits, shelters, water and sanitation, access to education, information and legal counselling to land and property rights as well as assistance to obtain identity documentation.