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Central African Republic: ICRC activities from October 2007 to January 2008

15-02-2008 Operational Update

In the north of the Central African Republic (CAR) the lack of security and the situation from the humanitarian standpoint remained sources of concern throughout this period. Civilians are still suffering from numerous violations of international humanitarian law and displaced persons find it difficult to return to their homes.

 

Summary of the situation 
 

Although an inclusive political dialogue has been announced and a UN/EU force is being deployed, there have been ups and downs in the security and humanitarian situation in the north of the CAR during the period in question.

The disturbances in Chad have not so far had any visible repercussions in the prefecture of Vakaga (in the north of the country), but the sub-delegation is watching developments very closely.

More and more roads are being cut off and sporadic clashes between the Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (APRD) and government troops are prolonging a climate of uncertainty which somewhat discourages displaced persons to return to their homes.

In this context the ICRC continued to provide assistance and protection for persons affected by the conflict.

 
Protection 
 

In conflict areas, the ICRC’s protection operations, which are aimed at preventing and securing an end to violations of the rules protecting civilians and their property, consist mainly in a combination of activities: recording allegations of violations, bilateral and confidential representations, visits to places of detention and sessions to disseminate international humanitarian law (IHL).

 Civilian population  

    

Civilians in areas affected by the conflict receive threats, are the victims of extortion, theft and looting and are subjected to the ill-treatment meted out by some arms bearers and the decisions of the courts set up by them. They are still suffering from the effects of road blocks. Sometimes they are forced to leave their homes in order to search for safer areas after clashes between the people setting up the road blocks and the APRD. 

 Between October 2007 and January 2008, the delegation:  

    

  • received and gathered information on alleged violations of international humanitarian law committed by arms bearers against civilians and submitted official comments to government authorities and the rebels, inter alia with a view to preventing further abuses;

  • exchanged 113 Red Cross messages (RCM) between civilians and relatives either in detention or from whom they had been separated as a result of conflicts in the CAR and neighbouring countries.

 Persons deprived of liberty  

    

Living conditions and hygiene in places of detention in the CAR are worsening. The government lacks the resources to meet the needs of a stable or increasing prison population. The ICRC regularly visits persons detained in connection with the internal conflict. It monitors the health and wellbeing of all prison inmates in the CAR.

 During the period under consideration, the ICRC:  

    

  • made 35 visits to 20 places of permanent or temporary detention. A total of 19 security detainees were visited for the first time and recorded;

  • assessed the nutritional status of detainees in six prisons and conducted nutritional monitoring using the Body Mass Index method in the prisons at Bria, Bouar, M’Brès, Bossangoa and Bossembele ;

  • cared for individual prisoners suffering from severe malnutrition by distributing a food supplement (protein-enriched peanut paste - Plumpy Nut);

  • carried out a campaign to eliminate intestinal parasites in all the places of detention visited and mounted a second campaign in the prisons at Bimbo, N’Garagba, Sibut and Bossangoa ;

  • set up pharmacies containing basic medicines in the prisons at Bossangoa and Sibut in order to improve the access to medicine of detainees who are seen by hospital doctors;

  • continued to provide the prisons at N’Garagba et Bimbo with medicines and basic medical supplies;

  • provided the prison at Bossangoa with assistance enabling it to harvest from its field 400 kilos of peanuts and 700 kilos of sweet potatoes for the detainees’ consumption;

  • exchanged 25 RCMs between detainees and their families.

 
Assistance 
 

Although clashes have become less intense, insecurity persists. The population of Ouham, Ouham- Pendé and Nana-Grébizi is still reluctant to return home, but people are trickling back to Birao. The prospect of going home is not, however, accompanied by an improvement in the humanitarian situation. The direct consequences of the clashes in terms of the destruction of essential goods are being felt in the daily life of some displaced persons. Furthermore the deterioration of infrastructures and the economic fabric, the early end of the rainy season and the d estruction of crops and property by the floods in some regions of the north make the population all the more vulnerable. 

 Economic security, water and habitat  

    

Programmes to distribute essential articles (blankets, tarpaulins, sleeping mats, hoes and cooking utensils) to displaced persons and other vulnerable sectors of the population continued in the northern areas. The deplorable state of the water-supply and sewerage system is increasing the basic needs of the vast majority of the population. The ICRC is trying to contend with this situation by assessing the hydraulic infrastructure and sanitary needs in the regions of Ouham, Ouham- Pendé, Nana-Gribizi and Vakaga.

 During the period in question, the ICRC:  

  • distributed essential articles to more than 12,100 people in the prefectures of Ouham, Ouham-Pendé and Nana-Grébizi;

  • provided assistance on several occasions to groups of Sudanese refugees from Darfur;

  • in partnership with the Central African Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies supplied flood victims in Bossangoa with basic necessities;

  • carried out activities aimed at restoring family links especially in the refugee camp of Sam Ouandja, which is sheltering approximately 2,650 Sudanese refugees from Darfur;

  • built 6 public latrines and 120 family latrines in the prefectures of Mbomou and Basse-Koto ;

  • supported a fund-raising mission of Dutch journalists and the Netherlands Red Cross with a view to financing ICRC water and habitat projects;

  • rehabilitated and restored 15 upgraded wells in the prefectures of Mbomou and Basse-Koto ;

  • installed 3 protected water points for 2,500 beneficiaries in the prefectures of Mbomou and Basse-Koto.

 
Cooperation with the Central African Red Cross Society (CRCA) 
 

As the National Society has long suffered from the political and military crises in the CAR, the ICRC gives it institutional support designed to strengthen its local branches which are completely lacking in resources. The delegation continued to provide technical, practical and financial assistance so as to boost the National Society’s capacity to respond to the needs of the population. 

 During the period in question, the ICRC:  

  • supported the training of volunteers from prefectoral committees in emergency preparedness;

  • distributed 300 first-aid kits to relief teams; 

  • heightened some one hundred volunteers’ awareness of IHL and the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement;

  • entirely financed the building of the National Society’s prefectoral office at Bangassou;

  • provided support for the communication department of the Central African Red Cross Society;

  • associated local branches in operations to distribute essential goods to conflict regions.

 
Promotion of international humanitarian law (IHL) 
 

Arms bearers in the CAR have a limited knowledge of IHL and the way the ICRC operates.

 During the period in question, the ICRC:  

  • organized 35 information sessions on the ICRC’s activit ies and the basic rules of IHL for almost 800 arms bearers in Bangui and in areas affected by the conflict (Paoua, Kaga Bandoro and Birao) ;

  • organized a course for 12 command officers;

  • strengthened its contacts with religious circles, especially with Muslim circles, in Bangui ;

  • held a press conference with Central African journalists to inform them about the challenges facing the ICRC in the CAR and about its forthcoming action there;

  • briefed more than one hundred members of civil society about the ICRC’s activities in the CAR;

  • Facilitated the participation of a representative of the CAR in the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (Geneva, November 2007) ;

  • Devised and broadcast radio programmes and ran competitions to expand knowledge of the Red Cross and IHL.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Jean-Nicolas Marti, Head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui, tel. : + 236 611 174  

 Abdou Latif Mbake, communication delegate in Bangui, tel. : + 236 611 014  

 Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel. : + 41 22 730 2458