CAR

Central African Republic: Rebels authorise UN humanitarian mission

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BANGUI, 27 January (IRIN) - Rebels in north and centre of the Central African Republic (CAR) have cleared the UN to undertake a humanitarian assessment mission early in February into zones under their control.
"We received today the rebels' reply, which contains security guarantees," Stan Nkwain, the UN Development Programme resident representative, said on Friday.

Speaking in the weekly UN-NGO humanitarian coordination meeting, he said the government had also "promised to facilitate the mission's task". This followed two months of negotiations between the UN Coordination Office, the government and the rebels. Eight UN agencies will assess the situation in rebel-held zones - the humanitarian, health, nutritional, economic and agricultural situations, as well as education, food security, water facilities, sanitation and human rights.

Nkwain said the mission would fly from Bangui, the capital, to Sahr, in southern Chad, from where it would enter northern CAR. The mission, due to last about one week, would send one team to the northwest, and another to the centre and the east. It would comprise only civilians working for the UN. There would be no government representative.

"Our [UN agency] colleagues in Chad await our signal to mobilise the logistics," Nkwain added.

The situation in government-held regions in the easternmost part of the CAR remains a major concern for humanitarian workers. They have been isolated from Bangui since 25 October 2002, when Bozize's rebels invaded the capital in a bid to overthrow President Ange-Felix Patasse's government. Hospitals and health centres have already run out of drugs, exposing the population to diseases.

In an effort to solve that problem, the UN coordination office in Bangui last week started to draw up a "humanitarian map" that would show how each region under government control can be reached and provided with drugs, vaccines and relief aid.

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