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UNHCR gains access to Kabo area in northern CAR

Briefing notes

UNHCR gains access to Kabo area in northern CAR

21 August 2009

Following months of insecurity, only last week UNHCR gained access to a remote area some 400 kilometres north of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). Our staff, who went to the area as part of an interagency mission, found more than 2,000 displaced civilians living in appalling conditions in and around the town of Kabo and the villages in the surrounding areas of Bokayanga, Kengar, Gonkira, Gbaizara and Batangafo.

These internally displaced people (IDPs), who are mainly ethnic Ngamas from Kabo, said they were forced to leave their homes, fleeing attacks by various armed groups since last November and again in April this year.

UNHCR staff reported the displaced have very limited access to safe drinking water and in some places they are forced to drink water in the open fields, along with their livestock. The IDPs live in mud huts and the living conditions are dire. There are serious health risks due to lack of water and sanitation facilities.

The incidents of diarrhoea and malaria are widespread. Basic health care is available only available in the town of Kabo, a long walking distance from their current locations. They need food as crops have been destroyed by the locust or stolen taken by armed bandits.

The IDP communities appealed for access to clean drinking water, food, education, government protection from the armed cattle raisers and generally more security, in addition to plastic sheeting for temporary shelter while they are rebuilding their houses.

The IDPs also told UNHCR about widespread cases of rape, killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and destruction of property. According to IDPs, these atrocities have been mostly perpetrated by the armed cattle raisers, but also by bandits and other armed groups in the area including government soldiers.

It is estimated that more than 125,000 IDPs have been forced out of their homes in northern CAR since 2005, many of them women and children. Another 137,000 are refugees in the neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.

UNHCR has been supporting IDPs in the Kabo area since 2007, when it opened an office in nearby Kaga-Bandoro.