Of this number, 2.4 million “have needs so severe and complex that their survival and dignity is at risk,” Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the CAR, told journalists in Geneva.
The conflict in neighbouring Sudan has further exacerbated needs, and a $465 million humanitarian plan for the country was amended to include support for some 25,000 Sudanese and CAR nationals fleeing the fighting, as well as local communities hosting them.
“Our priority remains assisting the most vulnerable sections of the Central African society,” he said. “In addition, we will continue to support those suffering from the consequences of the conflict in Sudan, both from the displaced and host community.”
Displacement, floods and underdevelopment
Mr. Ag Ayoya provided a background to the humanitarian crisis in the CAR.
Repeated military confrontations between various armed groups have uprooted one in five people from their homes, forcing them to find refuge elsewhere in the country or across the border.
Flooding last year also affected more than 100,000 people, almost three times more than on previous occasions, and more than 6,000 homes were destroyed.
“The country is also marked by decades of lack of investments in adequate socio-economic infrastructures, services and livelihoods,” he added.
“Basic services are often unavailable to the population, worsening people’s living conditions and eroding their resilience to the point that a large majority is forced to adopt negative coping mechanisms.”
A ‘devastating human cost’
As a result, three out of five citizens lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and only 55 per cent of children complete elementary school.
There is also a “devastating human cost” as every hour, two women or girls fall victim to gender-based violence. Nearly 5,000 cases were reported in the first quarter of the year alone.
War and pandemic pressures
The humanitarian situation has worsened due to the conflict in neighbouring Sudan, he reported. Vulnerable families were already finding it hard to meet their basic needs due to the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The arrival of nearly 14,000 Sudanese asylum seekers and Central African repatriates in the northeast, as well as the end of commercial traffic across the border, puts additional pressure on the limited resources available to the 130,000 extremely vulnerable people in the region,” Mr. Ag Ayoya said.
Racing against time
He also highlighted the difficulties in delivering humanitarian aid in the CAR, which “is often a race against time and a volatile security situation.”
During the rainy season, large parts of the country are inaccessible by road, requiring air lifts, while “since 2022, approximately every second day, an aid worker experiences violence or a security incident.”
Despite these challenges, humanitarian partners continue to find ways to support vulnerable communities, he said.
Mobilizing for emergencies
They reached nearly two million people in 2022, or more than 90 per cent of those targeted, and 658,000 people during the first three months of this year alone.
Aid partners are also quick to mobilize in the face of emergencies, he added.
“In the first few weeks after the start of to the conflict in Sudan, humanitarian partners prepositioned 155 tons of emergency cargo in the northeast ahead of the start of the rainy season and have since distributed live-saving assistance,” he said.
An addendum to the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for the CAR was also developed.
This was done to reflect additional budgetary needs of $69 million to assist some 25,000 people fleeing the fighting – both Sudanese citizens and returning nationals – and roughly 25,000 members of host communities.