Lifesaving Aid Blocked From Thousands of Displaced People in CAR

Humanitarian agencies warn that escalating violence and military operations are preventing them from reaching tens of thousands of forcibly displaced people in the Central African Republic, who need lifesaving aid.

Conditions have continued to deteriorate for more than 100,000 people who fled election-related violence in C.A.R. in December. The U.N. says humanitarian workers trying to reach the displaced with aid are being targeted, their offices looted, and vehicles stolen by armed groups.

The U.N. office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says 66 such incidents occurred in January, and in December one aid worker was killed and five others injured.

U.N. refugee agency spokesman Boris Cheshirkov says key supply routes are blocked, hampering efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to people in urgent need of food, health care, water and sanitation, and other essential relief.

“Clashes, military operations and blockades along the main road connecting C.A.R. to Cameroon are preventing the delivery of supplies, causing prices in affected areas to skyrocket as much as 240 percent for imported staple foods and up to 44 percent for local goods,” Cheshirkov said.

He said the UNHCR was working closely with national authorities, other agencies and U.N. peacekeepers to deliver desperately needed aid to the vulnerable. Last week, he said, his agency reached 4,600 people with aid.

While that was welcome, he noted it was just a small fraction of the more than 100,000 internally displaced people needing assistance. Most, he said, are living in deplorable conditions in the bush, fearing fresh attacks on their villages.

“UNHCR continues to receive reports of grave human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, extortion, armed robbery, assault, restricted movement, expropriation and looting,” Cheshirkov said. “Sexual violence — including against young children — is on the rise as insecurity creates a climate of lawlessness and impunity.”

Since the crisis began in December, the UNHCR said, at least 107,000 people have fled C.A.R. in search of safety in neighboring countries. Most have gone to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The rest have sought refuge in Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo.

An estimated 1.5 million people, or nearly one-third of C.A.R.’s population, have become displaced across the region since civil war in the country broke out more than seven years ago.

Source: Voice of America