BANGUI – The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today called for greater and more sustained international commitment to the Central African Republic (CAR), where a worsening humanitarian crisis is impacting half the country’s population.
We must persevere in our support for the Central African Republic,” said Stephen O’Brien, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, speaking to the press at the end of his mission to the country.
“The situation here needs to have the world’s attention,” he continued. “Not only are people suffering, but violence continues to be waged, preventing good governance, the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance, and a chance for Central Africans to begin building a better future.”
Mr. O’Brien was in CAR to see the consequences of the conflict in the country, which broke out in September, aggravating an already dire humanitarian situation.
More than half of the country’s population is currently in need of humanitarian assistance. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) is 400,000, while some 454,000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
During his visit, Mr. O’Brien saw the Saint Sauveur IDP site and PK5 neighbourhood in Bangui, as well as the Dekoa area, where more than 10,000 people were recently displaced.
“I have spoken to internally displaced people in Dekoa,” said Mr. O’Brien. “I have heard from them what it is like to escape from violence, looking for safety. I have witnessed the extraordinary efforts made by humanitarian actors to bring them life-saving assistance and protection, despite challenging circumstances.”
While meeting with members of the transitional Government, the Under-Secretary-General urged respect for humanitarian principles, free movement, and access for humanitarian workers.
“People have only one wish: to go home and to return to their lives in safety,” he said. “It is our collective responsibility to provide them with shelter, assistance and protection, until such time as the conditions are sufficient for their voluntary return.”
Mr. O’Brien today released $12 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support life-saving assistance for people affected by the conflict in CAR. “CERF continues to provide a life-line for humanitarian operations in CAR, but additional funds are urgently needed to meet the scale of the challenge,” said Mr. O’Brien. “I urge donors to continue supporting vital relief efforts in CAR.”
The top relief official’s visit follows the most recent eruption of violence, which was sparked in the capital, Bangui, on 26 September, when according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), violent clashes erupted between the residents of PK5 in Bangui’s 3rd district and the 5th district after the death of a young Muslim taxi motorcyclist. The violence left dozens of people dead and several injured. Houses were looted in other neighbourhoods and many burned. Thousands of people have fled the areas with heightened tension to seek refuge mostly with host families and in displacement sites.