GENEVA, December 10 (UNHCR) – A year into the civil conflict in the Central African Republic, more than half a million people have been displaced within the country. Many of the newly displaced are sleeping rough in the rain in the capital Bangui.
In the last five days more than 100,000 people in Bangui have left their homes out of fear as heavy fighting resumed between ex-Seleka rebels and self-defence forces last Thursday.
As of Monday night, an estimated 108,000 people were staying in 30 locations across the capital, mainly in churches, mosques, public buildings and the airport. In addition, an unknown number of people have also moved to Kilometre 5, a mostly Muslim neighbourhood in the northwest of Bangui, to stay with relatives or friends.
Living conditions are appalling in the sites hosting the displaced – most of them women and children – particularly at the airport and at the monastery of Boy-rabe.
"People there are sleeping in the open and it is raining," said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards at a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. "Many of the displaced spend the night in the sites, and then return home during the day. But because they fear nightly attacks by armed elements, they go back to the IDP sites before the 6 pm curfew."
UNHCR and its partners have been distributing tents, blankets, sleeping mats and other relief items to ease the suffering of the people in the displaced sites. Counselling is also provided to those who are traumatized.
The situation remains volatile in Bangui. Armed clashes and sporadic gunfire were reported from Monday afternoon until early on Tuesday, as armed elements resisted disarmament by French troops mandated by the UN Security Council to stabilize the country.
The newly displaced told UNHCR staff that they are hoping disarmament can take place in their neighborhoods so that they can return home. They said they plan to leave the sites as soon as ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka militiamen in their areas are disarmed and security restored.
The recent displacement brings to more than half a million the total number of people displaced within the Central African Republic since the crisis began in December 2012.
In addition, some 70,000 people have fled into neighbouring countries, mostly to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some 800 people managed to cross into the DRC last Thursday before the border was closed by CAR authorities.