13 June 2014

Central African Republic: Relief Funds for War-Torn Central African Republic Refugees Nearly Exhausted

The brutal ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic has displaced more than half a million people, many of whom escaped the bloodshed by making grueling and dangerous two- to four-month journeys to border countries. T

hey arrive at checkpoints with no more than the clothes on their back, wounded, malnourished, and exhausted, relying solely on aid organizations for their survival - which, if an urgent influx of funding does not come through soon, may have to discontinue their work in the region altogether.

As of Tuesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) had only received two contributions to the Central African Republic (CAR) relief fund - leaving a $15 million deficit in donations required to fund projects until December.

With more than 90 percent of the required funding missing, the agency and its partners - the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and 13 other UN agencies and NGOs - have nearly exhausted their resources.

"It's a heartbreaking story we hear from people on the ground taking care of them," Babar Baloch, a communications officer at UNHCR, told MediaGlobal News.

"They're desperate. We keep asking countries and the public at large to contribute to the campaign, because if we don't stand up to help these people, they'll have no help at all. The neighboring countries don't have the resources to help them, and they're suffering as a result."

CAR refugees are fleeing to Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo. The situation is most dire in Cameroon, where many refugees go because they want to stay close to home in hopes that the conflict will be resolved soon. Almost 90,000 people have fled from CAR to Cameroon since December 2013. Two thousand people a week, mostly women and children, continue to reach Cameroon through more than 30 entry points along the 700-kilometer border between the two countries.

The WFP mission in Gbiti, Cameroon reports that nearly 31 percent of refugees arrive in a severely malnourished state - more than double the emergency threshold of 15 percent. Many are suffering deep cuts, bullet wounds, or other critical injuries.

Currently, the UNHCR is borrowing money from other operations to contribute to the nearly depleted CAR funds, said Baloch.

"We have other crises, in countries like Syria, Iraq and South Sudan, that people see on their TV screens and contribute to, but for some reason the CAR story hasn't been appearing in the international media," Bahar told MediaGlobal News. "Just because it hasn't been in the media as much doesn't mean we should be forgetting the people affected by the ongoing CAR crisis. The country is there - they're people like you and I. And they need our help."

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