The Central African Republic (CAR) is fast becoming the largest forgotten humanitarian crisis of our time with some 60% of its population in need of aid, including nearly 900,000 people forcibly displaced by conflict, but assistance programmes remain “dramatically underfunded,” according to the United Nations refugee agency.
“We must prevent CAR from becoming a forgotten crisis,” said UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator Claire Bourgeois said.
“The current funding for the strategic humanitarian response does not allow us to ensure the protection of all these displaced persons or to provide the minimum of what is needed to meet the huge humanitarian needs,” according to her.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports there are more than 460,000 refugees from CAR in neighbouring countries and some 436,000 people are internally displaced. In the country, a total of 2.7 million people out of a population of 4.6 million are in need of humanitarian aid.
“Yet humanitarian assistance programmes both for the Central African Republic and the Regional Refugee Response Plan remain dramatically underfunded, with funding levels of only 14% for programmes inside CAR and nine percent of the refugee programmes in neighbouring countries,” Bourgeois said.
The World Health Organisation said only 55 percent of the health facilities are functioning in a country that has among the world’s highest child and maternal mortality rates and noted that other pressing crises like Syria and Yemen are siphoning off critically needed funding from CAR.
UNHCR and partners are struggling to provide an adequate level of assistance to the refugees in the four neighbouring countries: Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“It is critical that the international community does not forget about CAR”, the agency quoted Liz Ahua, its Regional Refugee Co-ordinator, as saying. “Important progress has been made and we cannot allow these gains to be undone because of lack of funding and support.”
Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, arrived in the CAR capital Bangui over the weekend.
During his four-day visit, Ladsous will mark the achievement of full operational capability of the UN Mission there known by the French acronym MINUSCA established a year ago to protect civilians and support the transition processes in the CAR. He will meet with the transitional authorities shortly before the opening of the National Bangui Forum on May 4.
UNHCR said there are two crucial milestones coming up in the peace process: the first will be the Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation, bringing all parties together in May to address the political and security issues at the centre of the crisis; and the second the national elections scheduled for August.
“The participation of internally displaced people and refugees in both processes will be crucial to their success,” UNHCR maintains.