OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
Despite peace-building efforts, CAR is sinking into a cycle of violence, which has spread into several areas of the country, including regions considered relatively stable, creating growing humanitarian needs and fear that the country will plunge into chaos. One in five people are displaced, while 63 per cent of the Central African population is in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
The Central African Republic (CAR) is the third-largest humanitarian crisis in the world, after Yemen and Syria, according to the proportion of the total population in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), 2.9 million Central Africans, more than half of whom are children, are in need of humanitarian and protection assistance, i.e. a 16 per cent increase over the previous year. Some 1.6 million people have acute and immediate humanitarian needs. Despite a certain lull in some localities, which facilitated the return of more than 230,000 people to their places of origin, there has been ongoing forced displacement in several regions of the country throughout 2018. As of 30 September 2018, more than 640,000 internally displaced people were reported throughout the country and the number of Central African refugees rose from 542,896 to 573,242. Two thirds of IDPs are housed in host families and one third resides in 77 sites.
Underlying Causes of the Crisis
The underlying causes of violence are multiple. Conflict indicators are political and economic, translating into ethnic, religious and inter-community tensions used for political purposes. Some armed groups have reached a level of organization and access to resources that consolidated their power, and enabled them to arm themselves and spread their control. At the same time, the fragmentation of some groups can also be observed. Armed groups operate in more than half of the country and organize parallel systems or replace the State in some areas where its services are decentralized.
Ranked 187th on the 2018 Human Development Index, CAR is second to last before Niger (188).
The redeployment of the State, although it has begun, is not yet effective over a large part of the national territory. Therefore, the Central African State’s capacity to respond to the crisis remains very limited. In many regions, access to basic social services, such as education and health, remains predominantly provided by humanitarian partners.
The phenomenon of transhumance (i.e, cattle migration) is also a destabilizing factor in the north-west (Bouar-BocarangaBaboua region), the west (Berberati region, Gamboula, AmadaGaza), the center-west (Bossembéle-Yaloké region), the centereast (Kouango-Bambari-Alindao-Kembé region), the north of the Ouham Prefecture and in Nana-Gribizi. During these periods, an increase in crime and violence is observed.
Impact of the crisis
Serious violations and abuses of human rights law and international humanitarian law continue to be perpetrated in a context of impunity, which exacerbates tensions in several areas of the country.
A crisis of protection: The crisis is foremost a protection one, and requires the commitment of all parties to the protection of civilians. Between January and September 2018, 9,214 incidents related to protection were reported, i.e. an average of more than 1,000 incidents per month.
Attacks against health personnel, facilities and schools:
Between January 2017 and October 2018, 14 health facilities and 89 schools were attacked, with a worrying trend in 2018 also involving incidents against educational personnel.
Similarly, the number of incidents against humanitarian actors has increased alarmingly. As of 31 October 2018, some 338 incidents against humanitarian actors were recorded, which is higher than the number recorded throughout 2017 (333).
Persistence of GBV cases: Women and children also continue to pay the heavy price of violence. A large number of women have been victims of violence. Indeed, from January to August 2018, 5,733 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) were recorded in the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS), 21 per cent of which were cases of sexual violence.
Increase in internal displacement: The persistence of conflicts has led more than one million Central Africans to leave their homes either forcibly (fire/destruction of houses) or preemptively. As of 30 September 2018, the Commission on Population Movement (CMP) reported 643,396 internally displaced persons, while UNHCR reported 573,242 refugees in neighboring countries. More than half of the displaced are children. In 2018, an increasing number of unaccompanied and separated children (704) were identified as a result of forced population displacements.
The categories of populations most affected by the crisis remain displaced persons, returnees, host families and populations remaining in conflict areas.
For example, in IDP sites, the prevalence rate of global acute malnutrition (GAM) is above the emergency threshold in 16 out of 18 sites, i.e. 5/5 in Obo (Haut Mbomou), 3/4 in Alindao (Basse Kotto) and 8/9 in Bambari (Ouaka) (SMART survey 2017-2018). In more than 70 sites and many host families, IDPs’ access to water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) has deteriorated significantly during 2018 due to insufficient funding and the withdrawal of some humanitarian actors. Poor hygiene conditions, poor primary health care coverage and crowded sites and foster families increase the risk of disease spread and outbreaks of epidemics. Makeshift shelters in which displaced persons find refuge do not provide sufficient protection against bad weather and animal bites, exposing them to immediate health risks.
40 per cent of the population affected by food insecurity: 1.9 million Central Africans, or 40% of the population, are food insecure (IPC phases 3 & 4), while only 54% of households have access to drinking water and 34% practice open-air defecation, due to the country’s poor drinking water coverage and low level of hygiene infrastructure.
The crisis has severely reduced access to essential services. In October 2016, out of the 1,010 health facilities in the country, 236 (23 per cent) still bore the wounds of the crisis (partial or total destruction). While some of these damaged health facilities have been rehabilitated, others were destroyed in 2017 and 2018. To date, only 48 per cent (485) of the nutritional care units are operational and 340 schools are non-functional, 28 of which are occupied by internally displaced people or armed groups. Chronic malnutrition affects 4 out of 10 children under five years of age. In 2018, the country recorded three outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea, one outbreak of typhoid fever, one outbreak of Hepatitis E, one outbreak of whooping cough and two outbreaks of monkey pox.
Major challenges in the humanitarian response
Essential services: Upon the collapse of the State’s structures over a large part of the country following the 2013 conflict, the humanitarian community is compelled to continue to replace the State in order to ensure access to essential services.
Insecurity and limited access: Infrastructure destruction, confrontations between armed groups, attacks against the civilian population and infrastructures, as well as incidents against humanitarian actors have affected humanitarian access and operations. In 2018, six` humanitarian workers lost their lives and 21 others were wounded. Between January and October 2018, 20 organizations had to temporarily withdraw from their intervention areas, depriving the population of vital assistance. Hostilities have spread to new areas, some of which are extremely difficult to access for security as well as logistical reasons (villages far from major urban centers, etc.), making assessment missions and humanitarian response difficult.
Delayed implementation of economic and social recovery: The impoverishment of communities remains alarming throughout the country. The delays in implementing and operationalizing the activities of the Peace Recovery and Consolidation Plan in CAR (RCPCA) and the lack of support for the basic socio-economic sectors keep several regions of the country dependent on humanitarian assistance, while increasing the risk of falling back into the humanitarian crisis in other areas.
Underfunding of humanitarian action: Chronic underfunding affects the ability of humanitarian actors to respond to the increasingly urgent needs of the population. As of 10 November 2018, US$222 million have been mobilized for the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), i.e. only 43 per cent of the required funds
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.