Assistant Secretary–General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang remarks to the Security Council on the Central African Republic
NEW YORK, 22 JANUARY 2014
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Thank you for this opportunity to update the Security Council on the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR).
During the two months since the Arria formula briefing by OCHA’s Emergency Operations Director, the humanitarian crisis in the CAR has deepened: the political system has failed; security infrastructure has disintegrated; there has been a complete breakdown of law and order; and public service institutions, which were already weak and overstretched prior to the current crisis, have ceased functioning. Horrific atrocities continue to be perpetrated against ordinary people in CAR, as powerfully described by the other speakers.
More than half of the country’s population – 2.5 million out of 4.6 million people – have been affected by the crisis and are in need of assistance, and people across the country are living in fear. More than 900,000 people have fled their homes and are internally displaced, including some 480,000 in the capital, Bangui, alone. At the airport in Bangui, around 100,000 people are sleeping out in the open with little access to basic services and very limited supplies. Outside Bangui, thousands of people are hiding in the forest with no aid or services, too afraid to come out. Half (450,000) of the displaced are children.
In addition to those internally displaced, some 86,000 Central Africans have fled as refugees and sought protection in neighbouring countries over the last year, mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also in Chad, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. This brings the total number of CAR refugees in the sub-region to 246,000. Some 28,000 third country nationals have been evacuated from CAR since the crisis escalated in mid-December 2013.
We have received horrendous reports of people being killed or injured while attempting to flee the violence. Just a couple of days ago, a convoy carrying mostly Muslim families being evacuated from the village of Vakap, and ultimately destined for refuge in neighbouring Cameroon, was reportedly stopped in Bouar, northwestern CAR, and attacked by people carrying grenades and machetes. At least three children and 19 adults were killed and at least 23 people, including children, were injured.
The crisis in CAR is a top priority for the international humanitarian community. On 11 December 2013, we activated our highest level of response (known as a Level 3 System-Wide Humanitarian Emergency Activation). We have reinforced humanitarian leadership on the ground through the deployment of a Senior Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Abdou Dieng. We have also sent our most experienced and skilled staff, released emergency funds and mobilized relief supplies and pipelines. The IASC Principles met twice this month to take stock of the situation and identity areas needing urgent attention. OCHA’s Emergency Director was back in the country last week to meet with humanitarian partners and communities affected by the crisis.
On the ground, NGO partners and staff of humanitarian UN agencies, funds and programmes are working closely with civil society and religious leaders from all communities to deliver assistance in a very dangerous and unpredictable environment: WFP has mobilized food for around 315,000 people in December and January; MSF is leading medical assistance; UNHCR has provided crucial relief items, including blankets and mattresses, for some 20,000 people this month and thousands more will receive relief in the coming days; and UNICEF and WHO have supported the Ministry of Health and other partners to vaccinate some 72,500 children in 17 sites this month. IOM is monitoring displacement and airlifting thousands of stranded migrants from the CAR with priority attention given to the most vulnerable, such as those needing medical attention.
One of our main challenges to date has been the international community’s chronic underfunding of this crisis. Last week, we revised the humanitarian appeal, taking into account the rapidly deteriorating situation. We now require over $551 million for our response in 2014.
On this point we have good news: at the High Level Meeting on Humanitarian Action in CAR which was co-chaired in Brussels on Monday by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, and the European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, Member States generously pledged over $200 million for humanitarian assistance and an additional $280 million for development and longer-term reconstruction. These very welcome pledges will allow us to provide life-saving food, drinking water, shelter and healthcare for the next few months. But we need much more.
Humanitarian assistance cannot solve the situation in CAR. The collapsing state, after years of neglect and failure by the international community to heed the warning signs of looming crisis, cannot be shored up with humanitarian assistance. Security and stability must be urgently restored.
The ongoing deployment of the AU-led MISCA, supported by French troops, has had a positive effect in areas where they are operating, and political developments over the past week, including the designation of a new interim President and agreement by the EU to deploy troops, have given people in the CAR hope. However, they remain fearful and skeptical in light of the horror they have seen and endured. The international community must consider all options for re-establishing security.
The international response must also build stronger, more resilient communities in the CAR. We need to look beyond today and take immediate action to restore livelihoods, preserve community support structures and strengthen local economies to provide a foundation for early recovery and longer term development.
The root causes of this conflict, including lack of effective, inclusive and efficient governance institutions; poor management and distribution of access to natural resources, including diamonds; fragile social cohesion and deep-seated feelings of marginalization must be urgently addressed. We need to support civil society, religious leaders and local communities as they strive to heal the wounds of violent conflict, rebuild social cohesion, stabilize communities and reduce sectarian violence, including through inter-faith dialogue. Crucial to protecting internally displaced people in CAR is community reconciliation.
We have already seen the human cost of the international community’s neglect of CAR. We need to act urgently.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.