Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is stepping up its humanitarian activities after months of growing hostilities in the Central African Republic. In particular it is increasing its aid for people forced to flee their homes and for the communities hosting them. In the coming months, almost 100,000 people will receive relief items (mosquito nets, blankets, tarpaulins, mats, cooking kits, buckets and soap) and farming implements. All ICRC distributions will be carried out in conjunction with volunteers from the Central African Red Cross Society.
The spread and growing intensity of hostilities in the north of the country have in many cases caused civilians to flee to safer areas. In late 2006, heavy fighting occurred in the north-east between the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement and the country's armed forces. At the same time a conflict erupted in the north-west between government forces and the Armée populaire pour la restauration de la République et la démocratie. Entire villages were wrecked and in some cases burnt down. The fighting resulted in the displacement of large numbers of people (estimates vary between 150,000 and 280,000).
The ICRC will also boost its efforts to secure protection of the civilian population and people deprived of their freedom. It will remind all the parties concerned of their obligations under international humanitarian law.
"The situation is deteriorating from a humanitarian viewpoint," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC delegation in the capital, Bangui. "Given the needs of tens of thousands of people in distress, the ICRC has increased its field presence in order to come to the aid of civilians living in the conflict zone." This, he said, had enabled the organization to establish a constant dialogue with all the warring parties, who recognized its neutrality and independence.
The ICRC has been working in the Central African Republicsince 1997. In 2006 it considerably increased its presence in the conflict zones so as to be able to quickly adapt its operations to the nature, scale and urgency of the needs. ICRC offices have been set up in Paoua and in Kaga-Bandoro, in the north-west of the country, and another office will soon be opened in Birao, in the north-east. At present the ICRC has 17 expatriates and 80 locally recruited staff working in the Central African Republic.
For further information, please contact:
Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22
730 2271 or +41 79 217 32 17
Jean-Nicolas Marti, ICRC Bangui, tel. +234 611174 or +234 611014
or visit our website: www.icrc.org