Violent clashes in northern CAR cause critical humanitarian situationThe recent outbreak of extreme violence in the Northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR) has caused mass displacements as people flee from armed group conflict and targeted attacks.
For the past weeks, the city of Paoua in the northern part of CAR has more than tripled in size as surrounding villages have emptied, their inhabitants fleeing fighting and attacks. The vast majority of the 60,000 people who have arrived here sleep in the streets on bare ground, or on collective sites outside in the open, with no mosquito nets or blankets. The renewed and violent clashes between armed groups that broke out on 27th December 2017 have affected hundreds of thousands of people in the area, and caused mass displacemens, with more expected to occur as the context remains extremely tense and volatile to this day.
Fleussie is a young mother of 5, she explains fleeing Begarata on foot with her children, after an armed group stormed her village
"They set my house on fire, killing my father who was trapped inside," she says. Grieving, having lost all of her possessions, and with the urge to protect her family, she saw no other way than to escape the village and head to Paoua for safety. There, her aunt was able to take the family in, however, due to a lack of space in the house, they are obliged to sleep outdoors and remain highly vulnerable.
Like Fleussie’s, a lot of other families are strongly affected by the absence of shelter, in addition to the lack of educational infrastructure, which has caused a lot of displaced children to be left to their own devices during the day and roam around without supervision, increasing their potential exposure to protection risks.
The sudden influx of displaced people in Paoua has inevitably caused pressure on the host community. Food is scarce, with people relying on an average of less than a meal a day per person. Water points are overcrowded, latrines are insufficient in number, and certain families have taken to using traditional wells, which present health hazards, to collect their water. These are all causes for concern highlighted by the humanitarian community present in Paoua, with growing fear of a potential epidemic outbreak and nutritional crisis to come.
"The situation in Paoua is highly preoccupying, there are enormous amounts of needs to be addressed, and the humanitarian assistance deployed so far has been limited," reports Fanny Marchand, Head of Programmes for the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in CAR.
Supported by OFDA, DRC teams have been working tirelessly to start launching the emergency response. It includes the construction of community shelters, improvement of traditional wells to mitigate the current health risks, NFI kit distribution, and the organisation of hygiene promotion sessions as urgent measures to minimise the possible spread of diseases, and in order to help preserve people’s dignity and contribute to their protection.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Paoua, DRC has been addressing protection issues, notably child supervision and care, through awareness raising sessions. These group discussions have also enabled the displaced and host populations to express their needs in terms of protection, but also share their stories. DRC has recorded many cases of GBV, trauma, physical vulnerability and physical assault, linked to the recent armed violence. With support from UNHCR and ECHO, DRC has been leading the response on recording, managing and referring protection cases and has begun providing psychosocial support to identified victims, whilst pursuing its monitoring efforts.
DRC has been working in the Northern part of CAR for many years, and despiste a decreasing security situation and sheer amount of needs, providing rapid assistance in this context is complex and challenging. Nevertheless, despite these challenges and people’s ever critical daily conditions, the communities have been coping and, Fanny Marchand concludes: "People are proving to be understanding, " as the aid response falls into place and NGOs mobilise.