Bangui — UNICEF is working with partners to bring emergency assistance to people in need after weeks of conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) that affected 1.79 million people and left 800,000 in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
With the situation stabilizing, the priority is to reach communities that were inaccessible without adequate food, medicine, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and protection.
Through a Rapid Response Mechanism, a system supported with €1.9 million from the European Commission's Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) and other funds to pre-position supplies and set up agreements with partners, UNICEF is able currently to respond to the needs of 45,000 people or 9,000 families.
To scale up the immediate response, some 17 tons of supplies including medicine, water purification tablets, therapeutic food, cooking sets, tarpaulins, mosquito nets and other essential household items have arrived in CAR by air and another 52 tons will be arriving by road this week.
"We urge all actors to unite to work for the benefit of their people, especially children," said Souleymane Diabaté, UNICEF Representative for the Central African Republic.
"From what we have seen in some of the hardest hit areas including N'dele, Bria, Bombari, and Kaga Bandoro, children are living in extremely precarious conditions. It is critical we reach them now with immediate assistance, but we urge all parties involved to make long-term welfare an urgent priority and a critical part of any political settlement," added Mr. Diabaté.
Even before the recent outbreak of fighting, CAR was one of the poorest countries in the world ranked 179 out of 187 on Human Development Index. It has the ninth highest rate of child mortality in the world with 8 per cent of children aged 6-59 months suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and 1.9 per cent with severe acute malnutrition.
In conflict-affected areas, only 48 per cent of children, and only 42 per cent of girls, are enrolled in school and there are up to 90 pupils per teacher. New recruitments of children by armed groups are taking place.
In the last week, there was some improvement in humanitarian access with several field missions to areas controlled by the Seleka alliance to negotiate access to affected people although almost all UN and Non-Governmental Organization offices in Seleka-controlled areas were looted.
"The humanitarian consequences of this crisis are still being assessed, but we know that in any conflict, children pay the heaviest price." said ECHO CAR Representative Pascal Mounier." The European Union is committed to supporting the humanitarian response and making sure that the most vulnerable are reached with life-saving support. It is clear that the investments made through the rapid response mechanism have helped to make sure we can respond more quickly."
With existing services paralyzed in many parts of the country due to insecurity, UNICEF is working with Ministries and NGO partners to help provide support in these areas:
• Prevent and respond to children at risk of separation, child trafficking, child sexual exploitation and child recruitment, as well as provide support to women and girls at risk and survivors of gender-based violence;
• Prevent child mortality by providing medical support including emergency health kits and surgical kits, diarrhea response supplies; vaccines as well as treatment of severe acute malnutrition;
• Improve access to safe water, and sanitation (household water treatment, water tanks, and distribution kits) combined with expanded hygiene promotion efforts through schools, health facilities, and temporary learning centres.
• Provide support to displaced communities and help provide shelter as well as other essential non-food items.
• Ensure children resume or regain access to quality education in safe schools and/or temporary learning spaces, Child-Friendly Spaces, including Early Childhood Development activities for children 3-5 years old.
UNICEF aims to provide emergency water and sanitation, nutrition assistance and non-food items for families uprooted by the crisis. Another US$2.1 million is needed immediately to support the emergency response. An estimated $11.5 million is needed to sustain emergency life-saving assistance for 1.79 million people through 2013.