Access to victims remains difficult
23-02-2012 Operational Update No 12/01
Recent fighting in northern Central African Republic has forced thousands of people to flee. In one of the poorest countries in the world, violence has worsened living conditions. Despite the security situation making access difficult, the ICRC is striving to bring aid to the neediest.
Several villages in the northern part of the Central African Republic, some 50 kilometres north of Kaga Bandoro on the road between Ouandago and Gondava, have been partially or completely destroyed since the end of January. Fighting has pitted Central African Republic and Chad government forces against the Front populaire pour le redressement (Popular Front for Recovery). "Thousands of people have had to flee," said Katharina Ritz, the head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui. "They've lost everything: their houses, their crops, all their belongings."
"Most of the displaced have found refuge with close relatives in neighbouring villages, but many are hiding in the bush. These people need water and food," added Ms Ritz. The ICRC is upgrading wells and boreholes in areas where displaced people are concentrated. It is also distributing food and other essentials, such as tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, soap, jerrycans, basins, clothing, kitchen utensils, hoes and mosquito nets, to those who have not been accommodated by host families. The Central African Red Cross Society has set up two emergency crews in Kaga Bandoro to direct displaced people to host families and to attend to people who sustained minor injuries.
Other areas within the country have also been the scene of sporadic violence – Bria, for example, in September of last year. "The situation is further aggravated by crime and ethnic tension. In certain areas, the lack of security is significantly impeding the delivery of humanitarian aid, including that of the ICRC," said Ms Ritz. To carry out its activities, the ICRC is in constant dialogue with the country's regular armed forces, the administrative and political authorities, civil society and, to the extent possible, armed groups. In areas where access to means of communication is limited and the ICRC is not well known, Central African Red Cross volunteers regularly perform a theatre play explaining the role of the Red Cross.
Almost 400 tonnes of seed distributed
Security concerns are also limiting access to farmlands and to basic services such as medical care and education. In addition to the emergency activities the ICRC is currently carrying out, such as those north of Kaga Bandoro, the organization is helping victims of the violence to rapidly resume normal lives. The aid provided ensures that they have clean water and enables them to rebuild their houses and cultivate their fields again. In 2011, the ICRC:
- distributed more than 393 tonnes of food-producing seed and over 15,000 farming tools to some 31,000 farmers;
- distributed bicycles, pushchairs, carts, oxen, ploughs and grain mills to nearly 24,000 people;
- renovated a veterinary pharmacy and provided training in veterinary care and in drug management;
- trained 10 people in Obo, in the south-east of the country, to diagnose and treat, with ICRC support, people afflicted with malaria. After completing their training they saw over 3,000 patients and treated nearly 2,000 of them in the last three months of the year;
- improved access to water and sanitation for more than 60,000 people by building or upgrading boreholes and wells in 48 communities in the north of the country and in two cities in the south.
Former child soldiers reunited with their families
Last year, six former child soldiers and 29 children separated from their families as they fled or were otherwise affected by armed violence were reunited with their families.
The ICRC visited 1,180 people held in various places of detention in the country in order to monitor the conditions in which they were being held and the treatment they received. It provided soap, buckets, jerrycans, brushes and other hygiene items for 2,400 detainees. In addition, it upgraded showers and latrines in three places of detention.
In order to raise awareness of the fact that certain actions, such as recruiting children, looting and attacking civilians, are strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law, in 2011 the ICRC:
- held more than 50 information sessions on international humanitarian law attended by over 3,000 personnel from the armed forces or armed groups;
- held three seminars on international humanitarian law for 70 Central African Republic army officers in Bangui; sponsored the participation of two senior officers of the army of the Central African Republic in courses on international humanitarian law held in Italy and in South Africa;
- provided course materials and gave lectures at the University of Bangui and at the National School of Administration and the Judiciary.
Support for the Central African Red Cross Society
The ICRC helped the Central African Red Cross to devise a contingency plan for possible post-election violence in 2011. More than 400 first-aid workers were on standby in 24 districts.
The ICRC also helped to train 10 new emergency crews. The Central African Red Cross now has 60 such crews, approximately one for each sub-prefecture.