New fighting in central-northern CAR displaces thousands more civilians

Briefing Notes, 16 May 2014

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 16 May 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is seeing new displacement in Central African Republic following a recent intensification of conflict in the centre-north. Already, as of 2 May, more than 23,000 people were displaced in the Kaga Bandoro area, a near doubling from the level of a month earlier. With further fighting in the past week more people have had to flee their homes, although at present humanitarian agencies are blocked from being able to verify exact numbers.

Most of the displaced are Christians, mainly women and children. Many of the men are in hiding, due to fear of attacks by armed groups. 13 deaths were reported on 9 May amid the fighting. The displaced are for the most part concentrated in several church compounds and in Dekoa, a town south of Kaga Bandoro.

The displaced urgently need physical protection, food, non-food items, water and sanitation, and other help. Many are sleeping in the open, even though the rainy season has arrived. Although some food support is being provided by our partner agencies, people are fast consuming their own food reserves, and are unable to cultivate their fields due to fear of attacks. Already a high prevalence of diarrhoea is being reported among children.

Not all the displacement is recent or for the first time. Among the IDPs are people who have been unable to return to their homes since February, following attacks in their villages. Many have been living between displacement sites and hiding in the bush, making it difficult to get help to them.

UNHCR, in collaboration with other UN agencies, is providing shelters and non-food assistance, including tarpaulins, blankets, mats, kitchen sets, buckets and jerry cans. We continue to reiterate our call to all parties in this conflict to allow access to IDPs and permit the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid.

New displacement is also being seen in CAR's northwest. UNHCR has registered 2,445 displaced people in Paoua in Ouham Pendé prefecture following an attack in early May on a nearby village. People have also fled into the Bush in neighbouring Ouham prefecture after an attack on Tuesday (13 May) in the village of Markounda.

Given the close proximity of these areas to Chad, UNHCR urges the Chadian authorities to continue providing access to its territory for people fleeing CAR and in need of safe haven, as well as proper access to asylum procedures. We appreciate that so far people have been able to seek refuge there some 8000 since December.

The situation in Bangui differs from that elsewhere in CAR. Despite the fluid security situation, some internally displaced have been gradually returning. As of 13 May 2014, there were 135,050 internally displaced people living in 43 sites in the CAR capital, compared with 142,635 the previous week.

Across CAR the number of internally displaced people is now estimated at about 560,050 (135,050 in Bangui and 425,000 in the rest of the country), while 115,524 Central Africans have fled to Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo since December.

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