People fleeing violence in Central African Republic need urgent assistance and protection says IOM

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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People fleeing violence in Central African Republic need urgent assistance and protection says IOM

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 10, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM is providing emergency operational assistance for those affected by fighting in the Central African Republic, where communal fighting has convulsed the country, claimed at least 400 lives and cause widespread displacement in the past week.

Families are sleeping out in the open scattered around places of precarious refuge in the capital Bangui. The estimated 60,000 displaced are crammed into spontaneous settlements in churches, mosques and at the international airport. The settlements grow much bigger at night, according to first hand reports from IOM staff who have been able to provide very limited assistance due to insecurity and lack of resources.

The makeshift camps host wounded people in need of medical assistance, as well as unaccompanied children, in some cases orphaned by the fighting, according to IOM reports.

“In some places the situation of those fleeing is especially bad,” said François Goemans who is currently heading IOM's team in the landlocked country. “Scant assistance has been provided so far and the needs are huge. Protection of the vulnerable is the priority and they need immediate access to shelter, sanitation, health and food.”

Armed factions have carried out human rights violations with impunity for days. Former rebels took control of the country in March and the security situation has been spiraling out of control in recent days. The deployment of 1,600 French troops this week, under a UN Security Council backed operation, brought a degree of calm as soon as they started patrolling the streets of Bangui and disarming fighters.

“Our team deployed on the ground is doing all it can to evaluate the situation and provide assistance. We cannot stand by while civilians are so desperately in need of assistance,” said Carmela Godeau, Director of IOM's Regional Office for West and Central Africa in Dakar, Senegal.

“But we urgently need additional resources in order to provide for their basic needs in the evacuation sites and have appealed for funds to ensure that we can respond quickly.”

The security situation has started to stabilize, at least during daylight hours, with the deployment of French forces in the North West region and Bangui. This should provide a window of opportunity to get aid to the affected population.

The recent surge in violence involving self-defense militias and fighters from the disbanded rebel forces in the country has led to an estimated 10 per cent of CAR's 4.6 million people fleeing their homes.

IOM's Director General has allocated some emergency funding to react quickly and has appealed to several donors for urgent additional resources to provide life-saving support to the displaced population through direct aid and for the resources to track and monitor those fleeing so that the most vulnerable are identified and assisted.