Central African Republic: Multi-cluster/sector initial rapid assessment (MIRA), January 2014
The Central African Republic (CAR) descended into unprecedented chaos in December, eventually leading up to the resignation of President Djotodia and Prime Minister Tiangaye on 10 January 2014. But even before then, life in CAR was daunting. The world had forgotten the 4.6 million people caught up in an intensifying conflict. It took a turn for the worse and today, the country is on the brink of total collapse. On 5 December 2013, unprecedented violence engulfed Central African Republic triggering widespread killings and violence throughout the capital, Bangui, and several provinces around the country, mainly in Ouham and Ouham Pende. The human toll: more than 1,000 people dead and more than 300,000 displaced in one month in Bangui only. With an estimated total of 935,000 persons currently displaced in the country, more than one in five Central Africans are not living in their own homes, many of them residing in safe shelters at night and returning home during the day. Outside of Bangui, displaced communities are mobile and largely remain unaccounted for, living with host families and communities, or makeshift settlements in the bush few kilometers from their village of origin where they are less exposed to violence. Each of the 4.6 million Central Africans have been affected in one way or the other by the breakdown of law and order, as well as by the collapse of families, communities, the basic infrastructure and disruption of food and market systems.There are 2.6 million people in CAR, more than half the total population, in need of humanitarian assistance, including 604,000 in Bangui and 2 million persons in other urban and rural areas. Key informants interviewed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have conveyed no intention to return whilst current insecurity persists. However since 2 January 2014 and a change of strategy in MISCA’s positioning day and night in 8 arrondissements of Bangui, a calmer period can be witnessed with numerous commercial activities and numerous IDP populations returning to their areas of origin during day-time. Such a rapid escalation of vulnerable populations has resulted in equally rapidly escalating needs. Upon declaration of a Level 3 emergency, the Central African Republic Humanitarian Country Team undertook a joint rapid humanitarian assessment in most affected areas to further define humanitarian needs in an effort to better target humanitarian response programming. UN and NGO agencies jointly designed a questionnaire and established multi organisation teams to conduct primary data collection through Key informants interviews in affected communities living in villages and main cities in Ouham, Ouham Pende, Ombella M’Poko, Nana Mambere, Nana Gribizi and Bangui from 23 to 29 December 2013. IOM conducted key informant interviews in internally-displaced persons (IDP) sites in Bangui. The MIRA results highlight an alarming and worsening humanitarian crisis that requires urgent life-saving assistance to avoid a further deterioration and loss of human lives.
The on-going violence and sharp increase in displacement has severely diminished the population’s access to basic health care. The entire health system in the country has effectively collapsed, and less than half of the country can access basic health services including medicine. 70 per cent of key informants from the communities living outside of IDP settlements have cited lack of health care amongst their top 3 primary humanitarian concern. Protection concerns continue to dominate the humanitarian sphere in CAR. Insecurity in displacement sites and communities is rampant, exposing vulnerable groups (notably women and children) to protection-related grievances. 81 per cent of MIRA respondents across the country and 91 percent of residents in Bangui reported experiencing a declining security situation since the last three months. Out of all violent incidents targeting women, communities estimated that rape was the most common form, representing 44 per cent of incidents. As for men, summary execution and/or murder seem to be the most prominent threat (27 per cents of incidents). Children in this context appear to be at a particularly high risk with some 85 per cent of MIRA respondents indicating that they perceive an increase in the number of unaccompanied minors and separated children since the escalation of violence in December. In addition, there are reports of forced recruitment of children circulating across the country. Food security is also significantly decreasing. Whereas most households consumed 2-3 meals a day before the crisis, 90 per cent of respondents report that households are having 1 meal a day at present. Food prices across the country have increased substantially due to the destruction of markets through looting and disruptions to the supply chain. Some 96 per cent of all respondents (both rural and urban) have indicated that the recent violence has adversely affected their principle livelihood activities, thereby diminishing their purchasing power in the face of rising prices. This threatens to add significantly to the already 1.2 million Central Africans at risk of emergency-level (IPC phase 3 and 4) food insecurity. Some 60 per cent of household respondents indicated that they no longer have any food stocks and 85 per cent indicated that they will be running out in two weeks- in the midst of the country’s dry season. Basic shelter is scarce among site-residents, with tents and tarps in significant shortage to provide the most basic protection from the weather to the ever-growing fleeing population. Virtually no known schools have been reopened since the start of December’s violence with some 62 per cent of school in Bangui currently used for other purpose than schooling, most significantly to host IDPs. This means that the vast majority of children are at high risk of missing out on the school year. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services preceding the December 2013 conflict provided just 3 per cent of the population with access to a functional family latrines; following the recent violence, no displacement site are meeting SPHERE water and latrine standards, and some 70 per cent of community key informants indicated lack of sanitation (notably waste management, lack of latrines, and open-air defecation) as one of their top three concerns. Significantly, over 70 per cent of affected Central Africans do not feel informed about the crisis or its response, with nearly 70 per cent of rural respondents indicating a lack of information and nearly half of those in Bangui expressing the same.
Priorities from affected populations
The representatives of displaced populations living in IDP sties in CAR have cited the need for better communication about the crisis amongst their top priorities. Most urgently, in the displacement site in Bangui, immediate survival assistance with food, WASH, health and security is needed. Affected communities not residing in Bangui displacement sites highlighted support for health, protection, and food (in this order) as their top 3 priority needs. Although WASH does not come out clearly as a stated priority, many health concerns are WAS Hrelated in some form or another. The overall priorities are homogeneously reported throughout the targeted prefecture, although with Rural/urban distinctions mainly related to access variations, with the exception of Shelter which was in greater scarcity in urban areas (notably at large IDP sites). Women respondents showed greater sensitivity to Protection-related issues and Food Security.
The MIRA findings confirm that the dire situation in CAR has significantly deteriorated since violence broke out on 5 December and the affected population requires urgent, and significant scale-up in all humanitarian sectors, in particular health, protection, food security, WASH, and shelter. With unrelenting insecurity and an increasing number of Central Africans fleeing the violence, a rapid and coordinated response to growing needs described in this document must be a priority for the humanitarian community. Although the MIRA captured initial findings amongst accessible communities in the northwestern prefectures and Bangui, insecurity in certain areas did not allow for assessments. Considering the dynamic nature of the situation, monitoring needs to be reinforced in order to support response in the weeks and months ahead with upcoming hunger gap period and food and nutrition risks.