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Central African Republic: little respite for communities as fighting goes on

14-12-2010 Operational Update

The humanitarian situation in several prefectures of the Central African Republic remains of deep concern. The ICRC supports people suffering from the violence and wherever possible helps communities resume normal life. This is a review of ICRC activities carried out from July to November 2010.

Armed conflict aggravated by ethnic tensions between communities in the north-eastern prefectures of Vakaga and Bamingui-Bangoran has severely disrupted normal life. Attacks on villages such as Ouanda-Djallé, Kpata and Yalinga led to homes destroyed and civilians killed, injured and abducted. Recent clashes in Birao have forced people to flee their homes and caused a number of civilian casualties. The complex security conditions in this region hinder humanitarian response, leaving the local population extremely vulnerable.

Eroded food security is a major consequence of violence in the south-eastern prefectures of Mbomou and Haut-Mbomou, which has driven thousands of people to abandon their villages for the greater safety of nearby towns. Around 20,000 displaced people have fled to the four principal towns of M'Boki, Zémio, Rafaï and Obo, effectively doubling the population there. They have been joined by an estimated 6,000 Congolese refugees.

There has been a reduction of conflict in the north-west of the country, although tensions do persist and the continuing presence of armed groups demands caution. Refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) who fled to Chad and Cameroon are slowly returning home to rebuild their lives again. Nonetheless, some of those who fled their villages to set up camp nearby in the bush are still unwilling to return home until they feel it is truly safe, which adversely affects their access to health care, clean water and education.

Getting through the emergency

Especially in the east, the lack of security has destabilized normal life, hampering movement between villages and fields. This undermines farming and other traditional ways of life, making communities less able to fend for themselves. The ICRC provides food to tide communities over and seed to ensure decent harvests will get them back on their feet again. When people lose their houses and possessions because of the conflict, the organization helps families recover by providing essential items.

Over the period, the ICRC:

  • distributed approximately 1,000 metric tonnes of food aid comprising rice or maize, white beans or groundnuts, oil and salt to over 50,000 residents, refugees and displaced people in M'Boki, Zémio, Rafaï and Obo in south-east CAR;
  • distributed seed and food to 140 conflict-affected families in Markounda, Ouham prefecture;
  • distributed household kits containing blankets, mosquito nets, mats and soap to 850 conflict-affected families in three north-eastern prefectures.

Supporting returnee communities

The ICRC carries out livelihood rebuilding projects and capacity building for people returning home. "Displacement is a cycle that includes returning home," explained Simon Ashmore, head of the ICRC delegation in CAR. "People often lose everything when they flee their homes and need help to re-establish themselves and regain self-sufficiency."

In north-west CAR between July and November, the ICRC:

  • assisted 1,400 families with small-scale income-generating projects devised in conjunction with the communities themselves. These included providing multi-grain cereal mills, oxen and carts, brick manufacturing kits, groundnut processing kits and bicycles with pushcarts;
  • constructed a veterinary pharmacy in Paoua to improve animal health in the region and donated pharmaceutical products and equipment; donated two motorbikes so coordinators from the local cattle herders' federation can provide livestock management training and carry out vaccination campaigns in rural areas;
  • provided training on post-harvest handling of grain and how to manage an association to 10 community associations (roughly 250 families) in Ouham prefecture, who have recently benefited from ICRC projects.

Water and hygiene

When refugees and displaced people flee to towns like Rafaï in eastern CAR for safety, existing water systems struggle to cope with the increased demand and shortages can lead to disputes over such a vital resource. The ICRC restores and improves access to clean water and at the same time carries out complementary work raising awareness about good hygiene practices.

Between July and November, the ICRC, in cooperation with the Central African Red Cross Society:

  • set up an emergency water system providing 60,000 litres of clean water a day for a camp for displaced people in Rafaï, benefiting 10,000 people including residents;
  • restored 10 existing springs used by 7,500 people in villages in several north-western, north-eastern and south-eastern prefectures, which involved cleaning and protecting the springs to prevent them becoming polluted;
  • repaired 74 boreholes used by 30,000 people in Ouham, Ouham-Pendé, Nana-Gribizi and Baminigi-Bangoran prefectures and in the south-east of the country, which involved changing cylinders and piping and fixing the hand pumps;
  • built 44 community latrines for schools and health centres and 910 individual latrines for 4,500 people in Ouham, Ouham-Pendé and Nana-Gribizi prefectures;
  • upgraded two stone reservoirs for storing 1,500 litres of rainwater in Bossangoa, Ouham prefecture;
  • refurbished three wells used by 2,000 people in Ouham prefecture, increasing their depth and building a solid structure so they do not cave in. High water levels during the rainy season make restoring wells difficult. Activities will restart in earnest during the dry season;
  • provided over 2,150 basic hygiene training sessions for 34,500 people.

Visiting detainees

The ICRC visits detainees held by the Central African authorities and armed groups, in order to monitor detention conditions and the treatment of detainees.

Between July and November, the ICRC:

  • carried out 55 visits to places of detention holding a total of 1,010 detainees;
  • individually met 49 detainees and registered 19 of them for follow-up;
  • distributed hygiene products to detainees, including 2,630 bars of soap;
  • provided 720 detainees with essential medicines.

Restoring family links

The ICRC helps families dispersed by conflict to stay in touch, and responds to requests from families to trace missing relatives. Over the period, the ICRC:

  • reunited 13 unaccompanied minors from CAR, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan with their families;
  • distributed 88 Red Cross messages and collected 11, mainly to Sudanese refugees in the Haute-Kotto prefecture.

Promoting compliance with international humanitarian law

Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a core part of the ICRC’s work. The organization endeavours to raise awareness of international humanitarian law among arms carriers and civil society.

Between July and November, ICRC delegates and national staff held:

  • 11 sessions explaining the basic principles of international humanitarian law for 195 Central African National Army personnel, five sessions for 180 MICOPAX (Mission for the consolidation of peace in CAR) personnel and nine sessions for 560 members of armed groups;
  • a seminar on international humanitarian law for the Central African Army Officer Training School;
  • a two-day workshop on implementing international humanitarian law, bringing together government ministries and civil society;
  • a session on international humanitarian law for 100 University of Bangui law students.

Partnership with the Central African Red Cross Society

Between July and November, the ICRC:

  • donated 18 bicycles to local Red Cross branches along with other equipment, such as a projector, video camera and three laptop computers, and made a book donation for the Red Cross library, in order to help the Central African Red Cross inform rural communities about its activities;
  • funded the building of a new office for the Red Cross prefecture committee in Obo;
  • helped train 26 first-aid monitors, 102 basic first-aid volunteers and 11 emergency first-aid brigades;
  • donated essential household items, mosquito nets and tarpaulins so the National Society could respond to flooding in the north-west.

Photos

Obo, Central African Republic. Central African Red Cross volunteers help check lists for the distribution of food to nearly 10,000 people in the town. 

Obo, Central African Republic. Central African Red Cross volunteers help check lists for the distribution of food to nearly 10,000 people in the town.
© ICRC

Central African Republic. Children collect water using the emergency water system set up by the ICRC. 

Rafai, south-east CAR. Children collect water using the emergency water system set up by the ICRC.
© ICRC

Bangui, Central African Republic. Second-year cadets get ready for a group photo shot after an ICRC seminar on international humanitarian law. 

Bangui, Central African Republic. Second-year cadets get ready for a group photo shot after an ICRC seminar on international humanitarian law.
© ICRC

Central African Republic. ICRC staff chat to villagers from Loura before delivering bicycles and other items as part of a project to stimulate community income. 

Ouham prefecture, CAR. ICRC staff chat to villagers from Loura before delivering bicycles and other items as part of a project to stimulate community income.
© ICRC

Pugol village, north-west CAR. An ICRC delegate is shown how to use a multi-cereal mill, part of an ICRC income-generation project. 

Pugol village, north-west CAR. An ICRC delegate is shown how to use a multi-cereal mill, part of an ICRC income-generation project.
© ICRC

Obo, south-east CAR. People form a line in the late afternoon to receive an ICRC food package. 

Obo, south-east CAR. People form a line in the late afternoon to receive an ICRC food package.
© ICRC