The displaced in the Central African Republic

8th August 2013

Violence in the Central African Republic since March 2013 has left millions of people in need of emergency assistance and remains a major hindrance to relief efforts. We have long advocated for security and humanitarian access, and are supporting refugees who are spilling into the neighbouring countries of Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 180th out of 187 countries listed in the UN Human Development Index. Therefore competition for resources and opportunities is fierce. Issues of land rights and poverty underpin the conflict, which erupted when the Séléka – a coalition of largely Muslim rebel groups – overthrew the government.

In response, Christian militias – the Anti-Balaka – formed to retaliate. Both sides are accused of gross human rights violations and massacres. There has been a complete breakdown of law and order, and the UN and France warned that the country was “at risk of spiralling into genocide”. The UN estimates that fighting has forced 935,000 people from their homes.

Almost half of the country’s population – nearly 2.2 million people – are seeking humanitarian assistance and their numbers continue to grow. Armed attacks and killings continue unabated, with violence and counter-violence now deeply rooted.

Nearly 700,000 people are displaced inside the Central African Republic and 250,000 have fled to neighbouring countries. Large areas of farmland are no longer being cultivated due to the displacement, and famine is developing as the food security situation grows critical.

The crisis will probably ruin more than one agricultural season, and many families have already lost their food reserves, not to mention their tools, seeds, livestock and revenue, as a result of looting and the prolonged emergency. Basic social services, such as schooling and medical care, are almost non-existent and it is increasingly challenging for people to make ends meet.

Sexual abuse has been widely reported and children have been recruited by militias as soldiers. Since the violence erupted, the African Union has sent in 4,000 troops, and France 1,600, as a peacekeeping force.

But despite an ongoing peace process and the creation of a transitional government, the security situation remains highly unstable.

ACT response

We have struggled to get relief into the Central African Republic. ACT members have therefore provided assistance to the waves of refugees who arrived in Chad in 2013, 20,000 of those from the Central African Republic.

Working with the UN and Chadian authorities, and with host communities, ACT members have provided emergency interventions on nutrition and carried out community-based psychosocial support and activities to address the extreme trauma many have suffered. Members are also working to improve livelihoods through agricultural support and income-generating activities.