Interview with the Head of Delegation in Central African Republic
Jean-François Sangsue has been the head of delegation in Bangui, Central African Republic, for the past three years. In this interview, he talks about the current situation in the country, the importance of ICRC's work and his hopes for the future.
What would you say to someone who had made a donation towards the ICRC's work in the Central African Republic?
I find it so encouraging that there are people out there, like you, who want to help one of the most deprived yet forgotten populations in the world. I've never encountered such poverty as I have in the Central African Republic.
It is especially sad to see people living in this way when you realize how much potential this country has. Not only are there vast swathes of farmland but the soil is fertile too, and considerable mineral resources lie buried underground. There's also a high proportion of youth among the nearly 5 million inhabitants of the Central African Republic, and young people are as precious a resource as the country's untapped natural wealth.
It goes without saying that there is much to be done. Every day is a struggle for survival for the vast majority of Central Africans. The sole focus of their day-to-day life is on finding enough firewood and water to be able to cook the small amount of food that they've managed to get hold of and, in this way, keep their family alive. And in a country with only 19 surgeons, and just two trauma specialists, the health sector needs urgent attention.
Thankfully, there are people, like you, who simply cannot remain indifferent in the face of such destitution. Your donation enables the ICRC to carry on its vital work in the Central African Republic. The delegation here runs a number of programmes to improve access to health care and water, tackle poor hygiene and reunite separated families. We also visit detainees.
As head of this delegation, I sincerely thank you for your commitment to helping the Central African people. Knowing that someone cares, without ever having met them, helps these families to keep hope alive in the face of great adversity. Together, we can conquer despair and make these people's lives a little easier.
What are your hopes for the future in this region?
I have three main hopes for the people of Central Africa: that humanitarian workers will be able to continue their work despite the instability plaguing some regions; that recovery and development organizations will act now to step up their programmes in regions where the authorities' foothold is precarious; and that national government departments (e.g. health, education, justice, national defence and domestic security) will invest the funds needed to tackle the many challenges these countries face.
Hundreds of thousands of families in Central Africa are in dire straits. In Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, and Sao Tome and Principe, people are living in highly precarious circumstances. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, they need considerable help from humanitarian organizations like the ICRC.
Today, hundreds of thousands of people who are displaced within their own country, hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries, and many host communities are living day-to-day, focusing all of their energy on meeting their basic needs, i.e. food, water and medical care.
Access to basic services is already very limited and could be reduced further if funds for emergency relief efforts are not forthcoming.
The ICRC still plays a major role in meeting people's humanitarian needs in this part of Africa, through the work of our multi-disciplinary teams. This includes providing emergency food supplies, helping relaunch agricultural activity, providing water to sites that host displaced people, restoring urban water-distribution infrastructure, performing emergency surgery, supporting community care for malaria sufferers, monitoring detainees, and promoting international humanitarian law among all weapon bearers.
Our experience shows that humanitarian aid – which used to be regarded mainly as a response to an emergency – today plays a significant role in restoring stability, which in turn can make a country more resilient.
Your support for our humanitarian work is a vital part of that effort, so thank you!
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