CAR

CAR: UN-NGO humanitarian mission to assess situation in north

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BANGUI, 25 February (IRIN) - The UN-NGO humanitarian coordination group in the Central African Republic is due to send an assessment mission on Thursday to the country's northern towns recently recaptured by government forces and their Congolese allies, the UN Development Programme resident representative, Stan Nkwain, has announced.
"We are expecting a letter tomorrow from the minister of planning, authorising humanitarian operations nationwide," he said during the weekly UN-NGO humanitarian coordination meeting on Monday.

The two-day mission - in which officials from the ministries of health, social affairs and rural promotion will take part - will first tour Damara and Sibut, respectively 80 km and 184 km northeast of the capital, Bangui. Government troops recaptured Sibut on 14 February.

The mission will be assessing health and nutritional needs, the human rights situation, water facilities, sanitation, food security, and education needs, as well as the impact of the fighting on agriculture.

Since launching their counteroffensive on 13 February, government forces and their Mouvement de liberation du Congo allies from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo have recaptured most of the northern towns previously held by the rebels loyal to the CAR's former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize. As those regions had previously been rendered inaccessible, local residents have not been aided since 25 October 2002, when fighting broke out.

The representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in CAR and Chad, Emile Segbor, said that between 19 and 23 February, the agency registered at least 1,000 people crossing into Chad from CAR every day. About 20,000 people - half of them CAR nationals and the other half Chadian residents of CAR - had been registered by the agency by Sunday.

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