The Central African Republic is one of the worst places in the world to be a child,1 and the situation is deteriorating. Due to the combined effects of enduring violence and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, 2.8 million people,2 including 1.3 million children,3 will need humanitarian assistance in the Central African Republic in 2021.
The Rapid Response Mechanism will spearhead UNICEF’s response in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and essential household items. Complementary interventions in nutrition, health and child protection will ensure a holistic first response to new emergencies. To respond to COVID-19, UNICEF will support the safe return of 907,000 students to 1,500 schools, expand access to clean water in underserved areas, and tackle the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on children, including through expanded severe acute malnutrition (SAM) treatment.
UNICEF requires US$75.7 million to meet the needs of vulnerable children in the Central African Republic in 2021.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
The Central African Republic is one of the worst places in the world to be a child,9 and the situation is deteriorating. Due to the combined effects of violence, COVID-19 and structural fragility, an estimated 2.8 million people – 57 per cent of the population – will need humanitarian assistance in the Central African Republic in 2021. This includes 1.3 million children and 430,000 people with disabilities. Some 1.9 million people, or 39 per cent of the population, will experience acute vulnerabilities that threaten their survival.
Despite the February 2019 peace agreement signed between the Government and 14 armed groups, the security situation in the country remains precarious. Fueled by significant outbursts of violence in several regions, internal displacement is at its highest level in three years. There are 658,000 people uprooted from their homes. One in five Central Africans is displaced by conflict.
While the Central African Republic has registered relatively few COVID-19 cases, thanks to early prevention and response measures and the country’s relative isolation, the pandemic is still active, and the impact of mitigation measure on the socio-economic situation has been severe. By the end of March, nearly 3,700 schools were closed, disrupting the learning of more than 1.4 million pre-primary through secondary students. The school reopening process has been slow, particularly in areas affected by violence. The pandemic has also impacted the health system, which was already facing ineffective financing, insufficient supply of medicines, and limited access to essential services. Low levels of immunization may give rise to new epidemic outbreaks.
The economic slowdown and rising food prices have had a significant impact on the well-being of Central Africans, with 81 per cent of households reporting negative effects. Children are likely to experience the worst impacts. The number of children under 5 years in need of SAM treatment is expected to rise by 25 per cent due to the pandemic, to 62,300.
Children in the Central African Republic are also affected by other epidemics, including measles and polio, and the Ebola outbreak affecting the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains a threat. The prevalence and impact of natural disasters, particularly flooding, are expected to increase. The country has the second highest mortality rate related to the use of unsafe water in Africa; and 51 per cent of the population will be in critical need of access to water in 2021. Incidents of gender-based violence have also increased during the pandemic, including in Bangui, where cases have doubled. Some 900,000 children will need protection in 2021. The humanitarian response in the Central African Republic has been chronically underfunded. In the context of such high and escalating needs,