31 January 2014

Central African Republic: Insecurity Hampering Access to Civilians

Photo: ICRC / Nadia Dibsy
An aid worker in discussion with a patient in the trauma unit of Bangui's community hospital.

Unless the security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) improves, humanitarian agencies will not have sufficient access to people in the provinces outside the capital Bangui, the United Nations relief arm has warned.

Some 825 000 people are still displaced from their homes across the country, more than 400 000 of them in Bangui alone, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The UN and its partners have requested $152 million to fund an emergency intervention plan, which aims to provide vital relief and protection to 1.2 million people across the country over the next three months.

Targeted attacks against civilians, looting and the presence of armed elements at some displacement sites had severely limited humanitarian agencies' ability to provide urgent assistance.

"The security situation remains tense, especially in the capital," a UN spokesperson told journalists in New York, citing OCHA.

UN partner organizations are also working to prevent family separation, as well as to reunite families.

"A comprehensive system in Bangui and other locations is a priority in order to identify, document, trace and reunify unaccompanied and separated children," according to OCHA reports from aid organizations on the ground.

They have also undertaken public-awareness campaigns on how to prevent care-takers and children from losing each other.

Thousands of people in CAR are estimated to have been killed in the crisis, which began when the mainly Muslim Séléka rebels launched attacks a year ago, and has recently taken on increasingly sectarian overtones as militias known as anti-Balaka (anti-machete), who are mainly Christians, take up arms.

Earlier this month, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said more than 6 000 child soldiers may now be involved in the conflict, with their numbers growing as fighting pits community against community.

UNICEF said that its work on identifying and verifying boys and girls associated with armed groups led to the release of 23 children this week. Since May of last year, a total of 229 children have been released, according to the UN agency.

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