Save the children assessment mission report in Central African Republic: 10 Feb - 10 Mar 2007


I) Executive summary

A) Overview and Highlights key points / key findings


CAR has been suffering from political instability and turmoil since its independence from France in 1960. This country has gone through an endless series of coup alternating with short democratic periods until the last October 2002 coup from General Francois Bozize against the President Ange Felix Patasse, originally democratically elected and supported by France. Bozize launched an attack from Tchad where he had fomented the coup and took control of CAR, suspended the constitution (1) and organised democratic elections that he won in May 2005.

The North Western region (Prefectures of Nana Grimbizi, Ouham, Ouham Pende) located at the border of Chad and Cameroon is the most densely populated of the country and has suffered a lot during the 2002-2003 conflict ending up in the coup organised by the current President Bozize. APRD (Armee Populaire pour la Restauration de la Democratie) has been created in the aftermath of the last military coup and originally backed up by overthrown President Patasse. Its existence has been officially reported by the CAR government in 2005 and the conflict in this area has exacerbated since with a peak late 2006 / early 2007. A large part of the population in this North Western area has been forced to flee and seek refuge in the bush where families are scattered near their own fields and live not very far from their original village (roughly between 3 and 10 kms from their village). Living in the bush near their field is the main way these affected populations found to limit direct threats against them.

In the current situation, population living in the North-West conflict affected areas are mainly threatened by governmental forces attacking villages and neighbouring community when suspected of being of any help to the rebel movements; by rebels as they usually live on the population's resources; and by "zaraguinas" (highway men or "coupeurs de routes") mainly motivated by economic purposes.

In the North East of the country (mainly Wakaga province with Birao town as prefecture, Haute- Koto and Bamingui-Bangoran provinces), another rebel movement has started to fight against the CAR government end of 2006 and took control of Birao on October 30th. This rebellion movement known as UFDR (Union des Forces Democratiques pour le Rassemblement) has been stopped end November and December in its progression from North East towards West and Bangui by the CAR forces thanks to a strong although unofficial support from French military forces.

Despite current negotiations on a peace agreement, skirmishes between rebels and national army have recently been reported from various sites, e.g. Ouham Pende (Paoua) in January, Nana Grimbizi (above Kaga Bandoro) in February, Wakaga (Birao) in March. Rebel's representative Mesquine has been negotiating peace agreement for APDR and UFDR but his legitimacy seems to be questioned as fights have resumed in the North / Birao early March. In terms of size it is very difficult to estimate the number of members in the two main rebels' movements and the only figures unofficially mentioned correspond to 1000 members for each rebel group. This figure is considered as really underestimated by the humanitarian community. APRD is known to be poorly armed unlike the UFDR possibly supported by Sudanese government (2). Government forces are divided into two main groups e.g. FACA and GP.

Population's figures:

CAR has 3.9 (3) inhabitants composed of 50.2% of women. 62% of the population leaves in rural areas and 49.4% is under 18 years old. Estimation of the children population leaving in conflict affected area and in need of access to education/protection/livelihood is extremely difficult as no-one has yet been able to do a thorough and recently updated census but the rough estimate from various agencies (4) is that IDP number all over the country is approximately 212.000. 70 000 CAR citizens have fled the country to seek refuge in Chad (for 50 000) and Cameroon (for 20 000). Finally it is commonly admitted that over one million persons are affected by the conflict.

Looking at the figures of children not attending school all over the country, only 40.7% (5) of the 1,924,199 children aged below 18 years old used to go to primary school before the conflict, i.e. 783 149 children. If one apply the 49.4 % (6) of the population who is under 18 years old to the total number of IDPs, the total number of children deprived of access to education amongst the 212 000 IDPs is 104 728.

The population of the three provinces visited by the assessment team is as follows:

Total Population (7)
Children population
Ouham Pende

Humanitarian needs:

The main needs regularly mentioned by most stakeholders including the population itself are need for peace, better access to health care, food, protection and education.

Needs regarding education are important and widely spread. The education system country wide has been neglected for years and has fallen into severe dereliction, specifically since 2003. The conflict has exacerbated the phenomenon to an extend that none of the children leaving in the conflict affected areas (except urban centres) have had any access to education since at least last summer.

Needs regarding protection are important as well although not as visible. GBV exists but the taboos sometimes prevent data collection. Child soldiers seems to be a relatively widespread issue, specifically regarding "young men" (8) amongst the rebel community and access to basic services in conflict affected areas is a major concern for the younger part of the population as well as the whole population. No major needs have been noticed regarding tracing.

With regard to nutrition, food security and livelihood, the situation can not be described as currently catastrophic. Indeed no visible signs of severe malnutrition have been found on a significant scale amongst the population living in conflict affected areas. Nevertheless the poorest part of the population in the conflict affected areas seems to come to the end of their coping mechanisms and the proximity of the hunger period raise some concerns in terms of food security and ultimately nutrition. Hence the strategy of the international community, under the lead of FAO and WFP, to provide food to cover needs during the hunger season and seeds and tools for the community to prepare next agricultural season in the affected areas. This aspect, along with the health needs certainly constitutes the main emergency need for the population after peace recovery. Many INGOs and UN agencies are getting organised to cover these needs and food distribution is already taking place in some places around Paoua (WFP is currently organising the pipeline further East around Kaga-Bandoro).

B) Summary of recommendations

With regard to the gaps identified within each sector covered by the assessment team (education/protection/livelihood), SC could consider implementing a programme linking education with protection and livelihood. Food, seeds and tools distribution could as well be implemented along with protection and education if need be and if no other implementing partner is already covering this aspect. Advocacy related to security situation and protection could as well be considered.

The main challenge of the programme would be to organise regular access to the population scattered in the bush. This could be done through the community itself by selecting people who could be trained to deliver various messages on top of the traditional school subjects. The messages could be relating to hygiene, health, protection, vocational training, livelihood, counselling, etc...

Such type of programme could take place in many affected areas but the area recommended would be the triangle between Batangafo, Kabo and Ouadango in Ouham Province (Bossangoa Prefecture) with an operational office in Batangafo or Kabo for the following reasons: no one is dealing with education or protection issue in this area so far, IRC has just started protection oriented activities and is planning to cover education but in the next (further East) Province of Nana-Grimbisi; the road between Batangafo and Kabo has been massively hit and the road between Batangafo and Ouandango has a different pattern with population under rebels pressure; MSF-Spain is present in Batangafo and Kabo and has started to cover health needs.


(1) Last Constitution has been instituted on December 27th 2004, by "General de Division" Francois Bozize. This last constitution overrules any previous constitutional text. Title 1 of the Constitution gather all general rules corresponding to Human Rights and education, see article: 1, 3, 5, 7.

(2) Khartoum has denied any participation.

(3) Figures from the 2003/2004 census, see annex 4

(4) See official figures from UNOCHA in annex 2

(5) Figures from the 2003/2004 census

(6) Idem

(7) Idem

(8) Commonly used locally for children aged beyond 15 years old.