The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking amongst the bottom ten in development indicators with little or no improvement over the last twenty years. It is now facing a highly complex, prevalent humanitarian and security crisis that has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. ShelterBox has been monitoring the situation but is holding off sending emergency shelter to these communities in need for now due to protection issues for the affected families as well as security concerns for ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs).
The renewed outbreak of violence between government and armed rebel forces that has swept the north-west of CAR over the past few months has affected the country’s entire population of 4.5 million, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Approximately 1.6 million, half of them children, are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
Civilians have been caught in crossfire during recent clashes in various areas including the capital Bangui and continue to be subjected to violent attacks. Whilst nearly 64,000 Central Africans have sought refuge in neighbouring countries an estimated 533,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been living in the bush for months on end with inadequate shelter, limited access to food and water and with serious health concerns.
ShelterBox has been monitoring the situation and has been in touch with contacts working in the country for the latest updates.
‘Due to CAR’s transient multifaceted environment and having spoken to other aid agencies in the country, we have decided to not yet send aid to the African country due to protection and security issues,’ said ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Dave Ray.
‘Hiding in the bush for safety’
‘Outside of Bangui people are displaced from their homes because they are hiding in the bush for their safety. If we gave them big new white tents they would become an easy target for armed groups. The size and weight of the tents would limit their ability to keep a low profile and move suddenly if there was an attack. There is also the likelihood that the tents would be taken from the displaced families and used by the rebel groups.
‘Within Bangui, although the majority of IDPs are sleeping outside without any shelter, the humanitarian community is conscious of not encouraging permanent camps. The priority is to focus on the restoration of security so that people can return to their homes as soon as possible.
‘Extreme risk destination’
‘We have also been in touch with Red24, a leading crisis management assistance company providing global risk management, which is calling CAR an extreme risk destination. It’s advising against all travel to the country and is evacuating its clients who are currently there. We therefore are not able to send our Response Team volunteers to carry out assessments. The situation is just too volatile right now.’
ShelterBox is continuing to investigate bringing aid into CAR but for now sending shelter would not be appropriate. Our heartfelt thoughts remain with everyone affected.