Bangui, Central African Republic: More than one million children’s lives are at risk in the Central African Republic as aid organisations’ access to vulnerable populations is severely impeded because of worsening security.
Saturday, 24 May 2014 - 10:05am Key routes are blocked off owing to the frequent movement of armed men and resulting clashes, and aid supplies are not reaching millions of people who desperately need them. In a recent escalation of the crisis in Kaga-Bandoro, for example, aid workers were temporarily forced to scale down operations, leaving thousands of people largely cut off from assistance. Yesterday’s clashes between the Sangaris and Seleka in Bambari affected all humanitarian operations in the area.
Six hundred thousand people are currently displaced throughout the country, with the majority living in cramped and appalling conditions. Conditions are rife for malaria, the principle killer of children in the country, to spread rapidly, while many camp sites could flood during the impending rainy season. The planting season is already underway but many people do not have access to their lands because they are displaced or afraid to return to these for security reasons. Agricultural inputs are also in very short supply. As food prices have already risen by 20%, there are strong concerns for over 100,000 children at risk of malnutrition. Yet reaching those in need with vital supplies is a daily struggle.
The situation will only worsen with the coming rains, which turn dirt roads to quagmire and make many routes impassable. To add to this, insecurity and insufficient planning have also meant that a national fuel crisis is looming, while many foreign truck drivers are refusing to enter CAR because of serious fears of being attacked.
“It is hard to see how things could get any worse, but we are facing an even deepening crisis if we do not act fast. Hundreds of thousands of children have already had to flee their homes and have not been spared in the violence. Many have witnessed their parents being killed, people are scared to go to the hospital, or to the market – where, even if they could, they cannot afford to buy food”, says Robert Lankenau, Save the Children’s Country Director in the Central African Republic. “With around 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the country, an estimated one million children are now exposed to hunger and diseases such as malaria.”
Recent months have also seen an escalation of sometimes fatal attacks against aid workers. Despite the increasingly dangerous environment, NGOs are resolute in providing life-saving support to those in need, and are calling upon all armed actors in CAR to respect and protect humanitarian personnel and activities, and ensure that all communities have unhindered access to assistance.
To overcome some of these challenges, Save the Children last week chartered a plane to bring in 48 tonnes of supplies from Europe, including essential medical equipment, drugs, fridges to store vaccines in, and generators. These supplies will be used to set up temporary health clinics in camps, and provide a life-line for hundreds of thousands of people who have sought refuge there. Flying in supplies from Malaga, Spain, was the best option after overland supply routes were temporarily cut off at the Cameroon border last week. To date, Save the Children has reached around 134,000 people, including over 100,000 children, through its child protection, health and nutrition programmes.
B-roll available: Save the Children aid flight containing life-saving supplies arriving in Bangui; interviews with truck drivers at Cameroon/CAR border who have survived attacks http://storycentral.savethechildren.org.uk/?c=24007&k=d7bc591f1e
For more images, footage or interview requests from CAR, please contact the Save the Children press office on 0207 012 6841 or 07 831 650 409 for out of hours