Insecurity pushes number of displaced in Central African Republic past 935,000

News Stories, 3 January 2014

© UNHCR/S.Phelps
A displaced woman and her son carry UNHCR aid after a distribution in Bossangoa.

BANGUI, Central African Republic, January 3 (UNHCR) Continuing violence and insecurity in Central African Republic has pushed the number of internally displaced people (IDP) past 935,000 and is hampering humanitarian aid efforts.

"Targeted attacks against civilians, looting and the presence of armed elements at some displacement sites have severely limited humanitarian agencies' access to those in need of urgent assistance," a UNHCR spokesman said.

"Our staff report that people are hiding in the bush, fearing fresh attacks. The deteriorating situation, coupled with the long distances between IDP sites outside [the capital] Bangui and poor road infrastructure, makes it increasingly difficult for UNHCR to reach people displaced by the conflict," he added.

More than 510,000 people are currently sheltering in 67 sites in Bangui, or living with host families. This represents more than half of the city's total population. Some 60 per cent of those displaced are children.

UNHCR is finding access to some 45,000 of the IDPs living with host families in Bangui very difficult because of the volatile situation, which makes it difficult to assess their needs and provide assistance.

Meanwhile, the number of displaced people seeking shelter at Bangui International Airport in the past week has almost doubled there are now some 100,000 people there. "Distribution of shelter material and other relief items has become more challenging and it is difficult to put a distribution system in place. Humanitarian agencies are working on a rapid 30-day inter-agency response for people displaced at this site," said the UNHCR spokesman.

Some 300 kilometres to the north of Bangui, continuing clashes have led to an increase in the IDP population at a school and at a church property.

UNHCR reiterated that improved security is essential for humanitarian workers to reach the displaced and provide vital humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands who desperately need assistance. It also called for more troops and effective operational coordination for the African Union peace-keeping force in Central African Republic (CAR).

Despite these challenges, UNHCR and its partners continue to distribute relief items at sites where access is possible. "Since December 5, our supplies have reached about 23,000 people from over 4,600 households," the spokesman said, adding: "We are scaling-up our presence in CAR with the arrival of our emergency teams. Fifteen additional UNHCR staff have arrived since December 14."

The refugee agency also plans to establish a sub-office in Bossangoa and two small field offices in the coming weeks. UNHCR has this week organized three airlifts to Bangui of relief items, vehicles and office equipment. Three more flights are due to arrive at the weekend with stocks from regional warehouses. In all, this airlifted aid will be enough for 75,000 people.

Since March last year, some 75,000 refugees have fled CAR to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Chad or Cameroon bringing the global number of refugees from CAR to some 240,000 by end of December.

Renewed violence has also forced several countries to repatriate their nationals. Thousands of Chadians have already been evacuated. Cameroon also flew home several hundred of its citizens last week. Senegal and Niger, meanwhile, have asked the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for help repatriating their nationals. In addition, several hundred nationals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo have expressed their desire to return home. UNHCR is working with IOM to identify refugees and asylum-seekers who wish to return home.

An inter-agency humanitarian plan for CAR was announced on December 24. This 100-day plan will allow for immediate and rapid provision of protection and life-saving assistance. A total US$152.2 million has been requested for the plan.

UNHCR is protecting and assisting more than 20,300 refugees in CAR. While the situation in the country remains tense, no incidents involving refugees have been reported yet. However, many live in fear of an attack. UNHCR is also assisting those refugees who wish to repatriate.

By Bernard Ntwari in Bangui, Central African Republic




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Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

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Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

Waves of fighting in eastern Democratic of the Republic since late April have displaced tens of thousands of people. Many have become internally displaced within the province, while others have fled to south-west Uganda's Kisoro district or to Rwanda via the Goma-Gisenyi crossing.

The stop-start clashes between government forces and renegade soldiers loyal to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda began in the province's Masisi and Walikale territories, but subsequently shifted to Rutshuru territory, which borders Uganda.

Between May 10-20, one of UNHCR's local NGO partners registered more than 40,000 internally displaced people (IDP) in Jomba and Bwesa sectors.

The IDPs are living in difficult conditions, staying in school buildings and churches or with host families. They lack food and shelter and have limited access to health facilities. Some of the displaced have reported cases of extortion, forced labour, beatings and recruitment of minors to fight.

UNHCR and other major aid organizations plan to distribute food, medicine and other aid. More than 300,000 people have been forcibly displaced in North and South Kivu since the start of the year, according to UN figures.

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In scenes of devastation similar to the carnage across the border in Darfur, some 20 villages in eastern Chad have been attacked, looted, burned and emptied by roving armed groups since 4 November. Hundreds of people have been killed, many more wounded and at least 15,000 displaced from their homes.

Some 7,000 people have gathered near Goz Beida town, seeking shelter under trees or wherever they can find it. As soon as security permits, UNHCR will distribute relief items. The UN refugee agency has already provided newly arrived IDPs at Habila camp with plastic sheeting, mats, blankets and medicine. The agency is scouting for a temporary site for the new arrivals and in the meantime will increase the number of water points in Habila camp.

The deteriorating security situation in the region and the effect it might have on UNHCR's operation to help the refugees and displaced people, is of extreme concern. There are 90,000 displaced people in Chad, as well as 218,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps in eastern Chad.

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