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Central African Republic: thousands affected by violence in Haut-Mbomou

20-10-2009 Operational Update

Violence resulting from the presence of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has caused the displacement of several thousand civilians in south-eastern Central African Republic, currently the scene of skirmishes between the LRA and the Ugandan armed forces. ICRC emergency aid is reaching those hardest hit.

 

  © ICRC/C.-V. Magendo    
 
  Displaced people doing their washing in a river near the city of Obo.    
     

The ICRC's aid operation is being carried out in cooperation with the Central African Red Cross Society.

" Over the past few months, the lack of security around Obo and M'Boki, in Haut-Mbomou prefecture, has caused a large part of the population to flee towards the city of Obo, " explained Simon Ashmore, the ICRC's head of delegation in the Central African Republic. " According to initial estimates of the ICRC and the Central African Red Cross, which have been on site assessing the need for humanitarian aid, there are over 4,500 internally displaced people (IDPs) and more than 1,400 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "

Haut-Mbomou is situated in the south-easternmost part of the Central African Republic approximately 1,300 kilometres from the capital, Bangui, on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. Previously known for its tobacco, coffee and game animals, it is now plagued by violence and security concerns. The local population has been severely affected by several conflict episodes in the area since 1980 – first in South Sudan, then in Uganda – and has faced an intensification of the violence since June 2009.

    

    

  Restoring family links  

Civilians who fled the violence are currently in the south-west of the country without news of their families and without any means of communication. ICRC staff in the Central African Republic are working in close cooperation with their counterparts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Sudan to restore contact between people who have been thrust apart, for example by enabling them to exchange Red Cross messages (brief messages containing family news).

 
  © Central African Red Cross    
 
  An unaccompanied 14-year-old child recently reunited with his family in Obo.    
     

With the help of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a special effort is being made to find the families of unaccompanied children. An unaccompanied Central African child was recently reunited with his family in Obo. The 14-year-old had been abducted in March 2008. He recovered his freedom in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was returned to Bangui by MONUC (the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). With ICRC help his family was rapidly located in Obo, and the child was reunited with his parents who had believed him dead.

  Aid for displaced people in Obo  

To enable those who fled the violence in Obo to cope with their most pressing needs, the ICRC distributed some 900 household sets of tarpaulins, blankets, sleepin g mats, mosquito nets, clothing, kitchen utensils and hygiene items to over 3,300 people. More than a thousand people have arrived in Obo since the first inventory of requirements was made.

To improve sanitation, the ICRC has built latrines and showers. It has also upgraded 14 boreholes, including six in M'Boki, to make clean drinking water more easily available. In addition, it has trained 15 Central African Red Cross volunteers to promote hygiene among the people.

  Health  
  © ICRC/C.-V. Magendo/cf-e-00280    
 
  Red Cross volunteers fixing a borehole in M'Boki to make clean drinking water more easily available.    
     

Most medical centres in villages around Obo and M'Boki were looted and some were destroyed during the events of the past few months. The M'Boki medical cent re and the Obo hospital can still admit patients – residents, displaced people or refugees – but they often lack medicines and other medical items. The ICRC has supplied medicines for treating around 6,000 patients against malaria and fever. It has also provided the M'Boki medical centre with bandages for first aid and the Obo hospital with surgical instruments and dressing materials.

In addition, the ICRC covered the cost of operating on three weapon-wounded patients and made arrangements for two others to be transferred to the surgical hospital in Bangui.

  Formation of first-aid teams  

The ICRC has provided technical and financial support to boost the operational capacity of the Central African Red Cross in Haut-Mbomou.

The Central African Red Cross formed first-aid teams in the border towns of Zémio, M'Boki, Obo and Ligoua. Some 50 National Society volunteers were given training in first aid. To strengthen the teams, the Central African Red Cross distributed first-aid items including 29 first-aid kits (medicines), 20 body bags, eight stretchers, 80 tabards, 80 pairs of gloves, 60 masks, 40 raincoats, 40 pickaxes, 40 rakes, 40 shovels, 40 pairs of boots and two bicycles to the cities'committees in accordance with the cooperation framework agreement between the ICRC and the Central African Red Cross.

  Information sessions on ICRC activities  

To raise awareness of the activities it carries out in behalf of victims of armed violence in a part of the country where it has been present only for a short time, the ICRC organized presentations for armed actors, civilian authorities, community and religious leaders, and the local Red Cross chapter.

  For further information, please contact:
  Kelnor Panglungtshang, ICRC Bangui, tel: +236 72 73 02 88 or +236 72 07 69 64
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17