SEATTLE — One of the world’s poorest countries, the Central African Republic has been ravaged by war and conflict for many years. Since May 2017, fierce fighting has only increased the suffering of the poor, refugees and the vulnerable, damaging the physical infrastructure and tearing apart the social norms and fabric of the country. While the emergency in the country has been one of the most poorly funded emergency situations in the world, the need for humanitarian aid is even more imperative in 2018.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners have renewed their calls for increased funding to address the latest crisis, highlighting the success of humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic but also emphasizing that much more remains to be done.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we won’t see it unless there is a much stronger commitment from African governments and the international community to help re-establish stability and peace,” said Liz Ahua, UNHCR’s Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Central African Republic and Nigeria. “We need funding to prevent malnutrition among children; to run schools, build up proper sanitation systems and provide clean water; and to make sure that families have shelter over their heads.”
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), nearly one in five children in the Central African Republic is either a refugee or internally displaced. In 2018, the U.N., the Central African Republic government and regional partners are calling for $515.6 million to address the humanitarian crisis in the country. This crisis stems from the violence perpetrated by armed groups in the country, which has resulted in 2.5 million Central Africans in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
As an example of the success of humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic, the Global Partnership for Education, which supports 65 developing countries to assist children, the poor and the most vulnerable, has worked with the European Union to provide funding to UNICEF, which assists the Central African Republic’s government in strengthening the country’s education system by renovating schools and training teachers.
Still, there remains hope that donors’ commitment to humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic will be unwavering. Speaking at the launch of the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi urged the international community to maintain its commitment to providing humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic, noting that it will require the combination of local and international efforts to “accompany the country in its march towards the well-being of the population, peace and development.”
As funding for humanitarian aid efforts has shown a decline since 2014, and the Central African Republic remains a country with half of its population in need of humanitarian aid, humanitarian aid actors in the country have continued to reevaluate their geographical presence in the country, mostly due to the threat of losing their funding.
In a 2017 report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, survey results showed how heavily the country’s social and health infrastructure is managed by humanitarian actors, with 56 percent of the health infrastructure alone sustained by aid groups and workers. Unfortunately, the same aid workers and peacekeeping personnel have also been directly targeted by armed actors in the country. In 2017, attacks by armed actors were responsible for the deaths of 13 aid workers and 14 U.N. peacekeepers. Moreover, between January and September, relief organizations were forced to evacuate 240 aid workers from 10 villages due to lingering insecurity in the region.
The success of humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic can also be seen in the global movements that have given center stage to issues of gender-based violence, raising nearly $20 million for a legal defense fund to help those directly affected.
Human Rights Watch has documented testimony by rape survivors and found that sexual violence is not only encouraged as a part of the sectarian violence crippling the country, but also officially ordered and committed by the commanders fighting in the ongoing conflict.
Humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic can be used to help pay for medical and other expenses of these assaulted women, who are often left to fend for themselves after being disowned by their husbands and communities despite carrying deep psychological wounds and social stigma.
Advocating for peace and stability in the Central African Republic means advocating for humanitarian assistance that can at least primarily cover the food, health, shelter and other social needs of the poor and the vulnerable in the Central African Republic. By providing more humanitarian aid, the international community can play an instrumental role in ensuring that a better future is delivered to the men, children and women of this long-suffering country.
– Mohammed Khalid