CRS program to help protect communities against LRA threats in Central African Republic
Baltimore, MD, Oct. 5, 2012 — Catholic Relief Services is launching a program that will help communities in the Central African Republic reduce their vulnerability to violence from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the renegade band led by Joseph Kony that has been victimizing the region for more than two decades.
With a $15 million, three-year grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), CRS will implement the program, “Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities”, in the southeast Central African Republic. It is similar to ones that CRS runs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan aimed at helping isolated villages learn of possible attacks by improving the flow of information among communities.
“CRS is very pleased to lead this program that will improve security for people living in this volatile environment,” said Lori Kunze, CRS’ Country Representative in Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic. “Our partnership with the local Catholic Diocese of Bangassou facilitates our reach deep into communities to address the daily risks that people face. “
In a statement announcing the grant, USAID said:
Communities in southeast Central African Republic are particularly vulnerable to attacks by the LRA because of the limited international humanitarian presence in the area, minimal government influence, and physical isolation due to poor communications systems, roads, and other infrastructure. Protecting civilians not only benefits the local community, but also reduces the LRA’s available targets and weakens their influence in the longer term.
The LRA began in northern Uganda where it became known for terrorizing communities, abducting civilians and forcing children to become soldiers. While the LRA was driven out of Uganda in 2006, and has been weakened in other countries, it is still a threat in many parts of the region. Fear of LRA attacks drives people from their homes and keeps them from needed daily activities – working their fields, gathering supplies, getting water. In its statement, USAID estimates that, “465,000 civilians—more than 20,000 of whom are in the Central African Republic —remain displaced due to fear of LRA brutality”.
Through CRS this new program will provide small grants directly to vulnerable communities to help them improve their security. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a similar CRS project has helped communities create local committees, which develop their own risk analyses and action plans. For example, people organize themselves into groups to go to their fields; use whistles for people to send alerts in case of danger; and clear roads to avoid ambushes.
“CRS and its partners will help communities to capitalize on their assets to actively improve the security of all members of the community, including those who are most vulnerable, particularly women and girls,” Kunze said. “Similar projects undertaken by CRS in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have demonstrated a measurable change in people’s sense of security.”
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in need in nearly 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, please visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org.
Kim Pozniak (U.S.)
Catholic Relief Services
Helen Blakesley (Senegal)
Catholic Relief Services
+1 (221) 77 818 59 02 (from the U.S., dial 011 first)