UNHCR calls for access as displacement from Central Africa increases
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, calls for humanitarian access to reach tens of thousands of people in dire need after they fled escalating violence, clashes and military operations in the Central African Republic ( CAR), a country where almost a third of the population is now forcibly displaced.
Increased attacks on humanitarian workers and the blocking of key supply routes are hampering the ability of UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to assist internally displaced Central Africans. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated, increasing the suffering of an already vulnerable population.
Humanitarians have been attacked and their offices and stolen vehicles looted. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 66 such incidents occurred in January, the highest number ever recorded in a single month in the Central African Republic. In December 2020, a humanitarian worker died and five others were injured.
Clashes, military operations and blockades along the main road connecting the Central African Republic to Cameroon are preventing delivery of supplies, causing prices in affected areas to skyrocket by up to 240% for food imported basic goods and up to 44% for local products. This also affects the delivery of humanitarian aid from the capital, Bangui, with dire consequences for people in urgent need of food, health care products, water and sanitation, basic household items and shelter.
Despite these challenges, UNHCR is working closely with national authorities, humanitarian partners and the United Nations peacekeeping operation, MINUSCA, to continue distributing life-saving items in accessible locations. Last week, our supplies reached some 4,600 people in more than 740 households in Bouar, a city about 450 kilometers from Bangui.
Since December, when the crisis began, OCHA estimates that more than 100,000 people have been displaced within CAR. Most live in deplorable conditions in the bush for fear of further attacks on their villages.
According to figures from state authorities in neighboring countries, at least 107,000 people have also fled across borders to the Democratic Republic of Congo (92,053), Cameroon (5,730), Chad (6,726) and the Republic of Congo (2,984) . This brings the total number of displaced Central Africans in their country and throughout the region to more than 1.5 million, almost a third of the country’s total population of 4.8 million.
Within the Central African Republic, UNHCR continues to receive reports of serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture, extortion, armed robbery, assault, restriction of movement, expropriation and looting. Sexual violence, even against young children, is increasing as insecurity creates a climate of lawlessness and impunity.
UNHCR teams have reported recurring violations of humanitarian principles at sites for internally displaced persons. We reiterate our call for meaningful dialogue to reduce tensions, as well as sustained and strong support from the international community to ensure that effective humanitarian response is resumed and prospects for solutions are strengthened.