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Central African Republic, on the Brink of Collapse, a Top Concern for Humanitarian Groups

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Central African Republic (CAR) is on the verge of what many are calling “Somalisation.”    As Somalia suffered through two decades of an unruly civil war following the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991, CAR appears to be on the same path following an uprising early in 2013 that culminated with the ouster of President Francois Bozize in March and continuing civil unrest. 

 

CAR has a long history of attempted coups dating back to 1965 when Bedel Bokassa seized power and crowned himself emperor.  Since then, people of CAR have lived in fear of attacks by armed groups and criminal gangs, and many have fled the country.  With the most recent coup, the result of a failed peace deal,  Seleka leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president and suspended the constitution and national assembly.

 

Djotodia is now struggling to control the country, but looting and violence has worsened.  The United Nations reported in May that the entire population of 4.6 million people have been affected. Tens of thousands had been displaced, almost all schools closed, and aid agencies’ offices and warehouses had been looted.

 

With very few government services available, lack of security and an increase in hunger, French President Francois Hollande has called on the U.N. Security Council and the African Union to stabilize the situation. Even before recent events, more than 80,000 were at risk of extreme hunger and 3.2 million had no access to healthcare. In July 2012, the UN reported that there was only one doctor for every 55,000 people and a nurse or midwife for every 7,000.   The number of malaria cases doubled in the past year in northwest CAR, and only 10 to 20% of these cases are able to be treated.  And with helped needed, government rules, like taxes on humanitarian organizations, make it hard for agencies to provide the assistance needed.

 

After the UN Refugee Agency called on authorities in the Central African Republic to protect civilians from fighting in the capital, authorities in the country began a new disarmament campaign aimed mainly at rebels who overthrew the president in March.  This campaign, although a step in the right direction, has proven to be difficult.  Bands of fighters with guns and machetes strapped to their backs speed around in pickup trucks bristling with rocket-propelled grenades, and neither government officials nor outside bodies proving able to gain control of the situation.  

 

In the midst of the heavy fighting groups such as the ICRC have been supplying first-aid equipment, disinfectant and fuel to help remote hospitals function.  Teams from Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders operate clinics in remote regions and as well as provide services in places beset by insecurity and violence.  Learn more what NGOs are doing to help CAR in the Take Action Gallery below.