Central African Republic: Continuing deep concern for civilians

By International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 7, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The widespread absence of security, caused by the conflict, and rising crime are exacerbating an already disastrous situation for thousands of people. The ICRC and the Central African Red Cross Society are continuing to respond to the most urgent needs.

In certain parts of the Central African Republic – for example, in the west, around Kaga Bandoro, and in Bangui – people are still living in fear for their lives and property. The widespread absence of security, caused by the conflict, and rising crime are exacerbating an already disastrous situation for thousands of people. "Despite relative calm in Bangui, the atrocities are continuing," said Georgios Georgantas, head of the ICRC delegation in the Central African Republic. "We are calling on the parties to the conflict to obey the basic rules of international humanitarian law so that civilians, and people who have stopped fighting, for example because they have been injured or captured, will be spared." ICRC staff are in contact with the parties to the conflict to stop abuses against civilians.

In Yaloke and Gaga, in the west of the country, the ICRC and the Central African Red Cross Society are working hard to restore people's access to clean drinking water, which has been seriously eroded by the recent intercommunal violence. "Wells are the only available source of water," said Mr Georgantas. "Over 60 water points have now been cleaned in Yaloke and Gaga. They're up and running again."

ICRC staff working in the west of the country have continued to take injured people to Bangui. In addition, they have distributed buckets, blankets and other essential supplies to the neediest.

In Bangui, tens of thousands of people are still displaced, crammed into makeshift camps which are sometimes dangerous owing to the continued presence of armed men. The arrival of the rainy season means that there will be a significant deterioration of already difficult living conditions in the camps. To make sure that information about hygiene and disease prevention reaches as many people as possible, broadcasts organized by Radio Ndéké Luka and the Central African Red Cross have been taking place on topics such as hand washing and the proper use of latrines. Drinking water is being distributed every day, and two trucks are being used for rubbish collection.

"We are also worried about how the situation is developing in Kaga Bandoro and in the east of the country, where new hotbeds of violence could flare up if clashes between anti-balaka and ex-Séléka were to spread," said Mr Georgantas. "Throughout the country, the scattering of displaced people in areas that are difficult to reach, and a growing lack of security, particularly along major roads, are still significantly hampering emergency aid operations."

Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has,

in the Central African Republic:

● delivered 430,000 litres of drinking water every day for displaced people at Bangui airport and at Boyrabe;

● performed more than 560 operations at Bangui's Community Hospital on patients suffering from gunshot wounds, knife or machete wounds, injuries caused by grenade explosions, and other injuries linked to intercommunal violence. ICRC staff also renovated parts of the hospital and regularly brought in food, sleeping mats, blankets, plates and cutlery, and soap for patients and the people accompanying them;

● distributed more than 430,000 daily individual food rations to displaced people;

● carried out medical evacuations of nearly 300 sick or injured patients every month;

● visited more than 300 detainees in Bangui with the aim of ensuring that conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees show respect for human dignity;

● reunited 12 children with their families;

● given almost 5,800 people in the Kaga Bandoro area, in the central part of the country, the opportunity to be seen by medical staff in mobile clinics. Nearly 750 expectant mothers have been examined and given advice, and 32 children have been delivered with the assistance of staff in the clinics;

in Chad:

● together with the Red Cross of Chad, given people fleeing the Central African Republic – in particular those who are least able to look after themselves, such as unaccompanied children – the opportunity to contact family members. More than 3,600 free phone calls have been made since 23 January. In addition, basic supplies such as hygiene items and kitchen utensils have been distributed to people arriving from the Central African Republic;

in Cameroon:

● continued to support the tracing work of the Cameroon Red Cross Society aiming to find the relatives that people arriving from the Central African Republic lost track of in the camp at Giwa;

in the Republic of the Congo:

● accommodated people arriving from the Central African Republic and started tracing relatives from whom they were separated in Brazzaville or in the provinces, in places such as Bétou, in Likouala, where a Congolese Red Cross volunteer is based in camps where people from the Central African Republic are staying.