Poverty in the Central African Republic

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SEATTLE, Washington — Since the 2012 political conflicts, the Central African Republic has experienced constant violence, unrest and food insecurity which has led many to abandon their livelihood in exchange for safety.

Military Upheaval in the Central African Republic

Since the Central African Republic became independent from France in 1960, it has faced decades of internal conflicts like coups and wars rising from ethnic tensions.

One of the most significant political conflicts occurred in 2012 when an armed group known as Séléka launched an attack against the government and seized power. As a result, another group known as the anti-balaka rose in 2013 to fight the Séléka, and despite the government’s disbandment of Séléka forces many ex-Séléka members continued their counterattacks. Conflicts continued in 2016 when animosity arose between ex-Séléka factions.

The Central African Republic government and 14 recognized armed groups signed the Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic in 2019 in hopes of stopping the violence and internal unrest.

The government stated it will work to include some of the armed groups into its army. The Central African Republic government controls 30% of the country while the rest is under the 14 armed groups’ rule, according to the 2019 World Report.

A July 2020 estimate shows the Central African Republic has a population of over 5 million. Yet, since the 2013 coup approximately 600,000 citizens have fled and in October 2019 another estimated 600,000 were reported to be displaced internally.

Political Conflict Affects Central African Republic’s Economy

The political conflicts increase poverty in the Central African Republic, weakening economic growth efforts. Before the 2013 conflict, the Central African Republic had a GDP per capita of over $565. By 2013, it dropped to $380.

In 2019, GDP per capita rose to $467 and while it shows a significant increase from previous years, it also demonstrates the lasting effects of political conflicts.

The World Bank states in a 2018 study that about 71% of the population live below the international poverty line, meaning they live on $1.90 a day.

Because of the displaced population in the country, the food prices in the Central African Republic have increased, leaving some families to spend 65-75% of their income on food. Internal displacement has left Central African refugees across neighbouring countries and without access to drinking water, social services and their agricultural lands.

According to a 2019 Integrated Food Security Phase Classification study, 1.8 million people in the Central African Republic, which is 45% of the population, face severe food insecurity. Children in particular have been affected with over 40% of children between six months and five years old unable to develop properly due to the lack of nutrition.

The World Food Programme (WFP) provides food and nutrition assistance to families in conflict zones. In 2018, WFP assisted 920,000 people.

Youths Suffer a Lack of Education

A damaged education system is another lingering ramification from Central African Republic’s political conflicts. Rebels from both Séléka and anti-balaka looted schools and, in some cases, killed teachers and students. As a result, many had to seek refuge elsewhere.

In 2015, around 40 schools reported incidents of assault. In an average primary school, there is one teacher for every 83 students.

The literacy rate in the Center African Republic is low with about 37% of people over the age of 15 being able to read.

However, NGOs and government agencies like the Global Partnership For Education provide funds to education systems in Central African Republic. The agency provided a $6.32 million grant for primary and pre-primary schools, hoping to provide 53,500 children with valuable learning opportunities.

Healthcare in the Central African Republic

Citizens’ livelihoods are also at risk due to political conflicts. Infant mortality, which was reported at 84.5 per 1000 live births in 2018 by the World Bank, continues to decrease. In the same year, the mortality rate for children under five years old was 116 per 1000 live births.

Central African Republic citizens have a life expectancy of 52 years with men having an average life expectancy of 50 years and women of 54, according to the World Bank.

HIV/AIDS, influenza, diarrheal diseases and pneumonia are some of the most common causes of death in the Central African Republic. The country does not have an adequate health care system. It has only one hospital, and many of its clinics are understaffed and lack equipment.

Solving Poverty in the Central African Republic

Although the Central African Republic is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, it is not lacking in natural resources.

The country is rich in resources like diamonds, minerals and uranium, amongst others. However, the majority of the population work in the agriculture sector.

During the political conflicts, armed groups used minerals to purchase weapons to fight their wars. One of the ways the country can decrease poverty is to encourage citizens to manage the Central African Republic’s natural resources.

Currently, the continuing political conflicts and corruption prevent Central African Republic citizens from attracting investment and reaping its benefits.

The recent 2019 peace treaty is thought to be a step forward for the Central African Republic.

– Joshua Meribole
Photo: U.N.
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