UNHCR seeks protection of civilians in Central African Republic

News Stories, 29 August 2013

© UNHCR/D.Mbaiorem
Thousands of people have been forced from their homes by fresh fighting in the capital, adding to the previous CAR total or some 206,000 IDPs

GENEVA, 29 August (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Thursday called for authorities in the Central African Republic to protect civilians from fighting in the capital that has killed at least 10 people and forced thousands to flee.

"UNHCR is deeply concerned for the safety of the civilian population, especially those who are forced to flee from their houses in search of safety," said Liz Ahua, deputy director of UNHCR's Bureau for Africa.

"We urge the authorities to use all means to stop attacks against civilians, restore security and protect the population," said the UN refugee agency official.

Ten days of arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, extortion, armed robberies, physical violence, restriction of movement, lootings and other attacks on civilians have displaced thousands of people. UNHCR said those affected, mainly from the Boy-Rabe and Boeing neighbourhoods, are seeking refuge in other parts of the capital.

So far, 10 people have reportedly been killed, the agency said. The newly displaced are sheltered in hospitals and churches, or with relatives. Some 500 people have found shelter in the Hôpital d'Amitié, where overcrowding and deteriorating sanitary conditions are a major concern.

"Since last week, we are facing a confusing security situation. People are leaving their houses to escape violence and abuses," Ahua said.

By Thursday morning, 5,000 to 6,000 people, including many women and children fleeing Boeing district, had taken refuge at Bangui International airport, blocking the runaway and forcing flights to be rerouted to Cameroon.

There were already over 206,000 internally displaced people in the Central African Republic before the recent events because of conflict inside the country.

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Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

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Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

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