Central African Republic faces dire humanitarian plight

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Violence-torn Central African Republic is facing an increasingly dire humanitarian situation with high insecurity on the main supply route from Cameroon blocking humanitarian deliveries and prices for basic food prices soaring, the United Nations said Monday.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said this is happening as 2.3 million people are already projected to need food, while rapid assessments are showing “alarming figures of severe malnutrition among the newly displaced.”

The U.N. reported Friday that 200,000 people have fled their homes in the impoverished country in less than two months and are displaced inside and outside the country.

According to local authorities, 92,000 refugees have reached Congo from Central African Republic and over 13,200 have crossed into Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo, with more continuing to arrive, Dujarric said.

Central African Republic’s former president, Francois Bozize, and his allies have been accused of inciting the latest violence, which erupted after the constitutional court rejected his candidacy to run for president in December.

President Faustin Archange Touadera won re-election in December to a second term with 53% of the vote, but he continues to face opposition from forces linked to Bozize.

On Jan. 13, rebels attacked the outskirts of Bangui, killing at least two U.N. peacekeepers and blocking important access roads to the capital, causing food prices to skyrocket. The rebel attack was the most serious threat to Bangui since 2013, when a coalition of predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka overthrew Bozize’s government.

The Seleka formed a new government that they said would redress the years of marginalization of the country’s Muslim population. Later that year, that government was challenged by militia fighters known as the anti-Balaka who attacked Bangui. The anti-Balaka began attacking Muslim civilians, beating people to death in the streets, destroying mosques and forcing tens of thousands of Muslims to flee Bangui in 2014.

The Seleka rebel president eventually stepped aside amid international pressure and an interim government organized democratic elections in 2016, which Touadera won.

Dujarric said a key cause of the current deteriorating humanitarian situation is the very high level of insecurity along the road link to Cameroon where over 1,600 trucks, including 500 with humanitarian supplies, have been blocked at the border since mid-December, causing a suspension of imports.

“Humanitarian organizations are beginning to report critical stock outages including food and trauma kits,” he said. “The closure of the supply route also caused a worrying increase in the prices of basic foodstuffs — that’s cassava, oil, meat and rice,” of between 75% and 220%.

“This is impacting several markets in the country, including that of the capital, Bangui, and we’re also seeing the closure of several markets because of the impossibility for traders to restock,” Dujarric said.

The United Nations is appealing for $444.7 million to assist 1.84 million people in Central African Republic in 2021, he said.

U.N. refugee spokesman Boris Cheshirkov warned Friday that tens of thousands of refugees from the country are facing dire conditions.

In Congo, he said, new arrivals who crossed the Ubangi, Mbomou and Uele border rivers told refugee officials they fled in panic when they heard gunshots, leaving their belongings behind.

Most refugees are living in dire conditions in remote, hard-to-reach areas close to the rivers without basic shelter and facing acute food shortages, Cheshirkov said. They are dependent on catching fish and on what local villagers with extremely limited resources can spare.

For many, he said, the rivers are also the sole water source for drinking, washing, and cooking, and malaria, respiratory tract infections, and diarrhea have become common.

The U.N. refugee agency is urgently appealing for food, shelter, drinking water, sanitation and health care to help those who fled Central African Republic and prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases, Cheshirkov said.

Originally published

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