Time is running out to prevent a genocide
(Geneva, 16 January 2014) The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Director of Operations, Mr. John Ging, has returned from a four-day mission to the Central African Republic, where the violent clashes that broke out on 5 December 2013, have claimed the lives of over two thousand people, displaced nearly one million, and deepened the humanitarian crisis.
Mr. Ging met with communities affected by the crisis and listened to their challenges and priority needs. “In Bangui, I visited a makeshift camp, alongside the airport’s only airstrip, where some 100,000 people still live, too afraid of the violence to return to their homes. Ordinary people, no matter their creed, want the same thing. They want peace, they want to go home, they want to rebuild their lives. Their requests are modest, despite their poverty. The international community has a responsibility to help them.”
Based on an assessment recently completed by OCHA in collaboration with other aid agencies, some 2.6 million people, more than half the population of Central African Republic, need humanitarian assistance. Nearly a fifth of the population is displaced, including 500,000 people in Bangui: half of its residents. An estimated 240,000 Central Africans have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Priority needs have been identified in the areas of health, food, protection, water and sanitation and agriculture.
“In Zere I met villagers who were taking the courageous step to return home after many months of hiding in the forest”, he said. “They told me of their desire to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. They asked for seeds and tools to restore their small crops ahead of the planting season, which begins in March. Without agricultural support, an already 1.3 million food insecure people could go hungry. Too many families are already surviving on a single meal a day.”
Mr. Ging called on communities to unite for peace and applauded the efforts being made by some community and religious leaders, to bring about such unity. "There are those with weapons in their hands, from within both communities, who are committing appalling atrocities and seeking to turn communities against each other," said Mr. Ging. "This must not be allowed to happen. This is not a war between Christians and Muslims, or between Muslims and Christians. This is not the history of the Central African Republic, nor should it be its future. People must unite against violence, and against those in their communities that commit it. People must unite for peace," he said.
In response to the crisis, humanitarian organizations have deployed emergency staff to the Central African Republic. “The humanitarian community has given this crisis the highest priority”, said Mr. Ging. “We have mobilized a large number of experienced and expert humanitarian staff to deliver the response that is necessary, although stretched to breaking point elsewhere in the world.”
Mr. Ging called on donors to give the crisis in the Central African Republic the same level of priority. He noted that, despite the appeal by humanitarian agencies for US$254 million to cover operations in 2014, only a fraction of the required funding has been received. “We do not see the mobilization of financial resources that are needed, in particular for life-saving response,” he said. While showing appreciation for the financial support received from the European Commission, the United States, Ireland, Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands, he underscored that more funding is required, urgently. “We cannot deliver to meet the needs of this population without the mobilization of the resources that we require,” he noted.
Mr. Ging warned of the consequences of not acting on the crisis in the Central African Republic. “The stakes are extremely high. The crisis has all the elements that we have seen elsewhere in places like Rwanda and Bosnia. The seeds are there for a genocide, there is no doubt. The people are a lot more civil than the situation conveys, but they are being incited by their experience. The fear among the communities of each other is palpable.”
On Monday, 20 January, the donor community will hold a high-level meeting on the Central African Republic, with the hope of garnering the political will and the financial resources required to respond to the humanitarian needs in the country.
For further information, please also contact:
Vanessa Huguenin, OCHA Geneva, +41 22 917 1891, +41 79 444 4065, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosalia Gitau, OCHA Bangui, +221 33 869 8515, +221 77 740 9532, email@example.com
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.