The UN and the Central African Republic have unveiled a new three-year humanitarian response plan. More than 2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
With an annual budget of nearly $400 million (375 million euros), the plan is intended to meet the needs of Central Africans after three years of institutional and humanitarian crises in the Central African Republic (CAR).
About 100 members of the diplomatic corps, UN mission, nonprofit organizations and press attended the event, held in the capital, Bangui. They had gathered to learn how the government and the UN plan to support the estimated 2.2 million Central Africans (nearly half the population) who are in need.
"In the crisis, there is hunger," Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the UN's special representative for CAR, told DW. "In the crisis, there is malnutrition. There is illness. Often there is also death."
The nation plunged into violence following the ousting of President Francois Bozize by the Seleka rebels in 2013. The Christian Anti-balaka militia sprung up to counter the Seleka rebels, escalating the fighting. Nearly 1 million people have been displaced by the violence, according to the UN.
'Reduce the vulnerabilities'
The response plan was developed around three strategic objectives: saving more lives, strengthening the protection of affected populations and preserving human dignity through basic social services. The aid work will provide food, water, hygiene, education, nutrition, health, protection and other services.
At the event, Social Affairs Minister Virginie Baikoua praised the UN, saying the organization had spared no effort to provide lifesaving assistance to her country. "I know I can count on the United Nations support and the unwavering commitment of the humanitarian actors who came to support us in these difficult times," she said. "In all circumstances, they spare no effort to reduce the vulnerabilities."
Though extreme violence has decreased in the country, armed clashes still occur in the countryside. Violations of human rights and war crimes - killings, torture, rape, forced displacement - take place on a daily basis.
"We have the feeling that there is no end in this absolutely recurrent sparks of violence," Anyanga said.
UN security forces are doing their best to protect the humanitarian workers in this volatile environment, Anyanga added. "However, I have to acknowledge that because of the complexity of the situation in the country, it is deplorable to know that still only last year 330 attacks were targeting humanitarian workers," he said. "This is extremely deplorable."
Honoring aid workers
During the launch ceremony, there was a moment of silence to remember those whose lives were lost conducting humanitarian work, including five aid workers.
Joseph Muyango from Rwanda is one of the people working on building the country's future in high-risk areas. He has worked with local populations in southeastern CAR for Catholic Relief Services for three years.
"They are happy for what we give them, but their needs are beyond what we give," Muyango told DW in his office. He said Central Africans in remote communities were frustrated thatthe security situation hasn't improved for them.
"They say, 'Why [do] we have international organizations, the international community, yet the crisis continues?'" Muyango said.
Addressing CAR's root problems
UN officials acknowledge that poverty, bad governance and the "plundering of natural resources" are underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Yvon Congo Adama, who also works at Catholic Relief Services and is from the southeast of the country, told DW that there's still a lot of work to be done. "It's true that with these events we have plenty of humanitarian actors who are at work," he said. "But we realize that all that the humanitarian actors are trying to do doesn't satisfy the real humanitarian needs of the community of the Central African people, because before all that there is the issue of security."
A conference in Brussels held in November raised $2.2 billion for development and humanitarian aid in the country. However, it is unclear how much of that will end up being available for humanitarian work. Last year, the country's humanitarian response plan was just 36 percent funded, insufficient to provide essential services.
"So for us the challenge is still there," interim UN humanitarian coordinator Michel Yao said at the event, "but the resources are decreasing." Meanwhile, Yao said, the needs are increasing. He acknowledges that donors have other pressing crises around the world, but appealed to partners to provide more funding.
During the launch of the humanitarian response plan, the officials had a clear message: Don't forget the Central African Republic.