Worsening humanitarian crisis in CAR as 159,000 displaced, over 600 killed

Briefing Notes, 13 December 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 13 December 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We are seeing a further deterioration in the situation in Central African Republic. In the capital Bangui the fighting and sectarian violence of the past week has displaced an estimated 159,000 people, with 450 killings reported there and 160 in other parts of the country according to the National Red Cross and Danish Refugee Council. These reports are mainly coming from locations in northwestern CAR.

At the airport in Bangui, there are 38,000 people, currently without latrines or washing facilities and with no shelter from the rains or sun. Conditions there and elsewhere are deteriorating.

12,000 people are currently at the Saint Joseph Mukassa church in Bangui. The church has just one water point. Local youth have dug latrines and UNHCR has provided plastic sheeting to allow some level of privacy and spaces where people can wash. However, people there urgently need food, shelter, soap and other basic aid. Among them are 460 people needing medical attention. This includes 101 pregnant women. There have been three births so far.

At the airport, UNHCR has provided tents to our partner MSF, which is running a medical clinic. Aid is also going to other relief agencies, and we are working with fellow UN agencies and NGOs to scale up humanitarian operations across CAR. So far help has reached relatively small numbers 3,500 families so far in Bangui and another 3,000 helped in Bossangoa and much more is going to be needed. We appeal once again to all parties to let humanitarian help through, and to protect civilians. There are frequent reports of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, sexual and gender-based violence, looting and destruction of property.

Indicative of the current turmoil inside CAR is a rise over the last week in people fleeing to neighbouring countries. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has received close to 1,800 refugees mainly from Bangui, including 1,457 into Zongo and more than 300 in Libenge.

Those in Libenge had to walk for several days with their children to reach villages facing Libenge, from where they used boats to cross the Oubangui river. Many arrived exhausted from the 200 km walk across through forest. With the new arrivals, there are now around 47,000 CAR refugees in DRC. UNHCR is relocating the new refugees to two camps one at Mole camp (Zongo) and another at Boyabo camp (Libenge).

Republic of the Congo (ROC) is also registering new arrivals from the prefecture of Lobaye in Central African Republic. Some of the refugees told our staff that more people are on their way. Since March, over 10,500 CAR nationals have sought refuge in RoC. In all, the crisis in CAR has driven more than 70,000 into surrounding countries over the past year.

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