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Central African Republic: Humanitarian situation in southeast critical

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On 8 December, the JRS evaluation team described the sanitary situation in the camp as deplorable. The lack of drinking water and toilets constitute a potential threat to the population.

In fact, during the visit, three refugees died of preventable diseases. According to UNICEF, the agency is taking action to prevent the health of the refugees from deteriorating in the days and weeks to come. UNICEF is also planning to distribute school kits to refugees and is considering establishing a partnership agreement with JRS.

Since mid-October, approximately 2,400 refugees from the Ango Territory of the Bas-Uele Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrived in Zemio, in southeastern CAR. Shortly after their arrival, prompted by the Zemio sub-prefect, a local support group was established, comprising refugee representatives, NGOs, local authorities and Christian churches. The committee negotiated with the local population for the provision of land to the refugees, organised the collection of funds and generally raised awareness of the circumstances of forced displacement.

Humanitarian agencies on both sides of the border say the refugees fled attacks and abuses by armed groups between late September and early October. According to eye witness reports, these armed groups are members of the Ugandan opposition group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). During those attacks, three people are believed to have been killed and several others abducted.

Various cases in need of protection were noted during the visit. Cases of individuals with disabilities are numerous. JRS staff personally saw three people suffering from mentally illnesses. Moreover, according to the government report, there are many unaccompanied and orphan children also in the camp.

The present security situation is said to be calm in Zemio since the arrival of a detachment of the national army and a brigade of the local Gendarmerie. No incidents have been reported in the last two months. Nevertheless, the presence of LRA rebels in the area constitutes a threat to the population of Zemio and the surrounding areas.

New JRS education project opens

Following a needs evaluation of the school-age population in November, JRS began providing emergency pre-, primary and secondary schools for the nearly 600 children registered in a camp in the Central African Republic (CAR).

To begin with, the local and refugee communities will construct 17 temporary classrooms, using materials provided by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the UN children's fund (UNICEF). JRS will carry out periodic evaluation of the education services provided. In the longer term, JRS plans to implement strategies necessary for a quality education system.

Each class will contain as many as 55 students. Families will be asked to contribute approximately one euro to the cost of each child's education, from which the teachers will receive a monthly stipend of 15 and 35 euro. The parents will also assist JRS to construct temporary schools.

The total cost of the project from December until the end of January 2010 will be nearly 17,000 US dollars, of which UNHCR will pay three quarters and JRS one quarter. The project will also be supported by the UN World Food Programme which will distribute food and non-food items to the local and refugee populations and the UNICEF which will provide school materials.

The task awaiting the JRS team will be to offer an education based on the Congolese system, thus facilitating their eventual return home. The essential aspects of the curriculum necessary to start providing emergency education have already been put in place.

Fortunately, the refugee population in the camp is well qualified. Of the population present, 33 are teachers, 20 primary and nine secondary teachers, two primary directors and an assistant secondary school prefect. According to JRS CAR, they seem to be more than capable of undertaking the tasks awaiting them.

New influx in southern CAR

In early December, UNHCR was informed of an influx of 3,439 Congolese refugees, probably due to ethnic conflicts, in Lobaye in southern CAR. The child population is estimated at 1,500 and cases of diarrhea and malaria have been reported in the population. On 10 December, a number of UN agencies and JRS began a needs analysis mission.