A record number of people – more than 1.1 million – have been uprooted in Central African Republic (CASR) by spiralling violence between armed groups threatening to plunge the country back into full-blown conflict, the United Nations said.
A surge in militia fighting in several hotspots since May has driven the number of people seeking refuge in neighbouring nations to more than 500,000, while about 600,000 are displaced in the country, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
This represents the highest number of people forced from their homes since the conflict started in 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted the president, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias, according to UNHCR.
With at least a fifth of the population now displaced, UN peacekeepers and national security forces are struggling to contain the rising violence, a UN report said.
“Fresh and fierce clashes between armed groups have wrought increasing suffering, deaths and destruction,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said in a statement. “If the violence goes unchecked, this could fully reverse progress towards recovery.”
Nearly one in two people in Central African Republic – more than 2.2 million – need aid amid the rising violence, says the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Several aid agencies such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Plan International have been forced to temporarily suspend operations in recent months, as militants loot humanitarian compounds, attack staff and raid health facilities.
CAR is among the world’s most dangerous countries for aid workers – who have been attacked on about 200 occasions so far this year – OCHA’s country head Joseph Inganji told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The country’s humanitarian response plan for 2017 has been less than a third funded – $148 million of a requested $497 million – the UN Financial Tracking Service (FTS) shows.
“The consequences could be disastrous, if there are no further resources to meet mounting needs,” Mahecic said.