MORE than one million children’s lives are at risk in the forgotten emergency in the Central African Republic as aid organisations’ access to vulnerable populations is severely impeded because of worsening security.
Key routes are blocked off owing to the frequent movement of armed men and resulting clashes, and aid supplies are not reaching millions of children and people who desperately need them. Since conflict intensified most recently in Kaga-Bandoro in the north, aid workers were temporarily forced to scale down operations, leaving thousands of people largely cut off from assistance.
Robert Lankenau, Save the Children’s Country Director in Central African Republic said: “It is hard to see how things could get any worse, but we are facing a deepening crisis if we do not act fast. Hundreds of thousands of children have already had to flee their homes and have not been spared the violence. Many have witnessed their parents being killed, people are scared to go to the hospital, or to the market – where, even if they could, they cannot afford to buy food. With around 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the country, an estimated one million children are now exposed to hunger and diseases such as malaria.”
Six hundred thousand people are currently displaced throughout the country, with the majority living in cramped and appalling conditions. Conditions are rife for malaria, the principle killer of children in the country, to spread rapidly, while many camps could flood during the impending rainy season. The planting season is already underway but many people do not have access to their lands because they are displaced or afraid to return to these for security reasons. Agricultural inputs are also in very short supply. As food prices have already risen by 20%, there are strong concerns for over 100,000 children at risk of malnutrition. Yet reaching those in need with vital supplies is a daily struggle.
The situation will only worsen with the coming rains, which turn dirt roads to quagmire and make many routes impassable. To add to this, insecurity and insufficient planning have also meant that a national fuel crisis is looming, while many foreign truck drivers are refusing to enter CAR because of serious fears of being attacked.
Recent months have also seen an escalation of sometimes fatal attacks against aid workers. Despite the increasingly dangerous environment, NGOs are resolute in providing life-saving support to those in need, and are calling upon all armed actors in CAR to respect and protect humanitarian personnel and activities, and ensure that all communities have unhindered access to assistance.
To overcome some of these challenges, Save the Children last week chartered a plane to bring in 48 tonnes of supplies from Europe, including essential medical equipment, drugs, fridges to store vaccines in, and generators. These supplies will be used to set up temporary health clinics in camps, and provide a life-line for hundreds of thousands of people who have sought refuge there. Flying in supplies from Malaga, Spain, was the best option after overland supply routes were temporarily cut off at the Cameroon border last week. To date, Save the Children has reached around 134,000 people, including over 100,000 children, through its child protection, health and nutrition programmes.
Source: Save the Children