Women's Empowerment in the Central African RepublicThe landlocked Central African Republic has a population of about 4.7 million and a land area of 623,000 square kilometers. Women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic is a challenging task in this nation, known as the unhappiest country in the world. The Human Development Index ranks this country as the lowest among 188 nations.

Similar to a few other undeveloped nations, economic and social discrimination are common barriers to women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic. Single women are not regarded as the heads of households and are often denied family subsidies to which they are entitled. While the constitution guarantees equal rights, many women, especially seniors and those without families, had been accused of being witches. The proportion of women in government ministries and female seats in parliament remains relatively low, at 12.5 percent as of 2015.

While equal inheritance and property rights are enshrined in civil law, women are vulnerable to discriminatory customary laws, especially in rural areas. There is no penalty for spousal rape, nor a minimum sentence for rape. Incomplete statistics suggest that one in seven women had been raped during the previous year, while the true incidence of rape could be even higher. Of women surveyed, 22 percent claimed physical harm by a member of their household. Also, there is no set of penalties on sexual harassment till then.

A 2013 report found that access to primary school was not equal for girls and boys. While 65 percent of girls were enrolled in the first year of school, this number sharply declined to 23 percent after the sixth grade. Many girls left school in their early teens to marry and have children. The illiteracy rate of females was also much higher than that of males.

A recent study reported that this nation has the second-highest rate of child marriage in the world, where 68 percent of teenage girls got married before the age of 18 and 29 percent were married before the age of 15. There is no prohibition against polygamy and bride-trading, which poses significant barriers to women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic.

A few global institutions such as U.N. Women and the International Rescue Committee put great effort into the protection of women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic. Their officials appealed to the international community to mobilize for the peace and security of women.

While some notable progress had been recognized on women’s empowerment in the Central African Republic, gender inequality and other related issues persist, demanding patient global advocacy on closing the long-existing gender gaps for this nation.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

Central African RepublicThe Central African Republic has been the scene of years of conflicts and violence since 2012, which has left thousands of people without access to clean water. Armed forces decided to use water spots, known as wells, as graves for those who died during the conflicts, leading to the contamination of the water and impacting the health of the population.

Access to clean water has always been a problem in the Central African Republic, but the conflict affecting the region has multiplied the issue and the number of affected people. Around 70 percent of the country’s population suffers from lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitary conditions, a percentage that translates to around 2.2 million people, according to the global humanitarian organization Concern.

An issue that the country needs to address is the lack of water pipes available and the poor conditions of roads which make it extremely difficult for remote populations to bring water to their community. One solution to this problem was the idea to drill wells, but this requires funds and technical expertise for mechanized drills, that isn’t readily available. Fortunately, Concern found a way to create these wells without the use of mechanized drills. They decided to gather people of the community and have them work together to manually drill the wells. While mechanized drills rely on electricity, these drills, known as “village drills”, are built by the people. Not only is this innovation less financially burdensome, but it is also an efficient way to enable the transportation of water to remote areas.

Concern has been providing aid to Central African Republic communities since May of 2014 and has reached thousands of people so far. Humanitarian organizations such as Concern can become keys actors in finding innovations that can help poor regions. Through their work, they showed that people and societies can be brought to work together, as a community, to help improve their lives.

Sarah Soutoul
Photo: Flickr

Central African Republic ConflictSince 1960, when the Central African Republic gained its independence from France, different armed conflicts have emerged in the country, principally fights for political power. However, in this decade, a confrontation between two different religious groups and the government has led to an environment of constant violence, forcing many people to leave their homes. These are 10 key facts about the Central Africa Republic conflict that you need to know.

  1. The Central African Republic conflict began in 2012 when the Seleka, a Muslim rebel coalition, attacked different cities in the country in order to overthrow the regime of President Francoise Bozizé.
  2. The main opposition group to the Seleka is the coalition known as Anti-Balaka, formed principally by Christian fighters.
  3. In 2014, Seleka rebels and Anti-Balaka forces agreed to a tentative ceasefire agreement.
  4. The Central African Republic conflict started again in 2015 when the government rejected the agreement by Seleka and Anti-Balaka forces.
  5. The Central African Republic conflict has displaced 466,000 people, who are now refugees in other countries.
  6. Since 2013, when the conflict started, more than 935,000 people have been internally displaced and about 60 percent of them are children.
  7. It is estimated that 3,000 to 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
  8. According to the U.N., nearly 2.5 million people are facing hunger in the country.
  9. Reports by human rights groups and the United Nations suggest crimes have been committed by both Seleka and Anti-Balaka.
  10. Different allegations of sexual abuse have been made by the United Nations, making the conflict worse inside the country.

Several organizations, principally the United Nations, are working in the country in order to end the conflict. However, the conflict is still ongoing, creating a wave of violence that has resulted in thousands of refugees, deaths and political uncertainty.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

U.S. Congressman Urges More Aid to the Central African RepublicRep. David Cicilline (D–R.I.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said critical aid to the Central African Republic (CAR) was necessary after visiting the country with a congressional delegation in August. He stated that the international community “has to think about the long-term implications of abandoning our efforts to stabilize this country.”

Cicilline specifically criticized the 2017 withdrawal of U.S. special operation forces in the African country. Since the withdrawal, members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel faction in CAR, have continued to attack civilians, particularly in the country’s southeast region.

Since its independence from France in 1960, CAR has experienced near-constant sectarian violence and political instability, usually caused by religious or ethnic conflicts. Its economy, infrastructure and development have suffered as a result.

The Central African Republic ranks last on the U.N. Human Development Index. More than 60 percent of the population lives in poverty, and only 36.8 percent are literate. Preventable diseases, such as malaria and malnutrition, have contributed to an average life expectancy of 52.3 years.

According to Oxfam, 60 percent of CAR is controlled by rebel groups. In fact, the U.S. suspended embassy operations in CAR from December 2012 to September 2014 due to violence spurred by civil war. This violence also has displaced 600,000 people.

The U.S. has historically provided aid to the Central African Republic. In the past two years, the U.S. spent more than $500 million in humanitarian, development and security assistance to CAR. The U.S. also supported U.N. peace operations in CAR, which sent more than 10,000 peacekeepers to the embattled country.

However, the U.S. recently decreased aid to the Central African Republic. For FY 2017, the U.S. sent $48.6 million in aid to CAR, compared to $64.7 million in FY 2016. USAID also stated their purpose in CAR is to primarily respond to humanitarian crises as opposed to supporting long-term development.

The U.N. mission mandate in CAR ends in November. At that time, the U.N. Security Council can send additional peacekeeping support to the country.

CAR remains a complicated geopolitical issue. Nonetheless, the international community remains committed to providing aid to the Central African Republic to promote stability and development and empower its population to rise out of poverty.

Sean Newhouse

Central African Republic Poverty RateThe Central African Republic is among the poorest countries in the world. In 2017, the country had the lowest reported GDP per capita, at $656, and the average person lives on less than $1.80 per day. The Central African Republic’s poverty rate is among the highest in the world, with 62 percent of citizens living on less than $1.90 per day when the data was last taken.

The incredible poverty rate is due to a variety of factors, perhaps none more important than the Central African Republic’s history as part of the French Empire. As a country rich in natural resources that have been in demand throughout history, the Central African Republic has been exploited by western nations from the beginning of the Age of Imperialism to the modern day.

Internal conflict has worsened the problems originally begun by western imperialism. Since the Central African Republic gained independence in 1960, the major Christian and Muslim factions in the country have rarely ceased in-fighting. Alongside religious rivalries, multiple ethnic groups and political ideologies have contributed to widespread violence and instability throughout the country.

Longstanding political instability has led to a severe lack of development, one of the greatest reasons behind the abysmal Central African Republic’s poverty rate. Widespread poverty has allowed the country to wallow in incredibly low rates of development for years, ranking 179th out of 187 countries.

In a population of just over four million people, nearly 370,000 children will grow up without one or both of their parents, and more than 50 percent of the population can neither read nor write. Almost five percent of the population carries HIV/AIDS, one of the highest rates in the world.

Numerous groups worldwide are providing necessary aid to the Central African Republic, but many focus on providing emergency relief. While any and all aid is needed throughout the country, short-term solutions do little to assuage the Central African Republic’s poverty rate. In order to provide a long-term solution to poverty, the International Rescue Committee is, alongside emergency aid and health services, creating programs that help both men and women receive education and set up businesses. This program will allow Central Africans take the first steps out of poverty themselves.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in the Central African Republic

Approximately 663 million people live without access to clean water. Many nongovernment organizations (NGOs) are dedicated to improving water quality and building wells in poverty-stricken areas. However, the ad hoc building of wells does not solve the problem of water poverty and sanitation. Wells can and do break down and someone must fix them, but at this point, most water charities have left the community a long time ago. The key to ending water poverty, which will in turn bring more people out of extreme poverty, is water sustainability. This is where Water for Good – an organization working in the Central African Republic (CAR) – comes in.

A Plan for Water Sustainability

Founded in 2004, Water for Good works to bring water sustainability and improve water quality in the CAR. It is now the largest water provider in the country. Water for Good has drilled over 650 new water wells in the CAR and each well provides enough water for 500 people. The organization also maintains over 1000 water wells across the country and has rehabilitated more than 900 old and forgotten wells. While wells can last over a decade with routine maintenance, they will eventually need a major overhaul.

Water for Good plans to bring clean, safe water to every person in the CAR  by 2030. This is in step with the U.N.’s timeline for achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals. The nation has a population of only 4.7 million people; however, with a large geographic size and a history of internal conflict, improving water quality in the CAR is a difficult task. Water for Good plans to partner with the U.N. and other charitable organizations to achieve this goal.

Local Companies

Doctor Richard Klopp – CEO of Water for Good – tells The Borgen Project that an important step toward water sustainability is transitioning the duties of maintenance and upkeep to private companies within the CAR. Water for Good currently has four maintenance crews that each take care of about 260 wells. The goal is to hand off all of those responsibilities to private, locally-owned companies. In fact, it has already started to happen.

Water for Good created a locally-owned company, Marcellin African Drilling (MAD), and then handed off all the operations to the owner, Marcellin Namsene. While MAD still partners with Water for Good on projects, it is a private, locally-owned business that can continue to upkeep the wells when Water for Good’s work is finished.

A Strategic Focus

Water for Good was originally founded by a former missionary named Jim Hocking, when a good friend sold him a well-drilling business if he agreed to run it as a nonprofit. Hocking had no experience with water wells or drilling, but was familiar with the issue of water quality in the CAR, having grown up in the country. Originally, the organization was named Integrated Community Development International and had several other aims besides water. It was also involved with HIV/AIDS work, orphan care and providing religious services. Eventually those other issues were jettisoned in order to focus on water sustainability. The organization now provides drilling, maintenance and runs a radio station which focuses on community development, sanitation and hygiene. While the CAR is a very low-infastructure country, most people have access to a radio.

“We realized what the country needs from an American NGO is water infrastructure built and sustained, ” says Klopp, “and so that’s all we do now.”

It is a strategic focus for a unique organization. Hopefully, the success of Water for Good inspires other organizations to realize what can be accomplished with long-term planning and a focus on sustainability.

Brock Hall
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is one of the world’s least developed countries. The country has been economically unstable since achieving its independence from France in 1960. Aid from wealthier countries is often only enough to satisfy a few humanitarian needs. Causes of poverty in Central African Republic include poor agricultural and geographic conditions and an expensive, poorly-constructed medical system.

Agriculture is an extensive source of stress, making it one of the larger causes of poverty in Central African Republic. Their economy is based on the cultivation and sale of crops, such as yams, maize and millet. Around 67 percent of total income is from agricultural production for the rural poor.

The nation runs on export trade; however, it is difficult to develop enough revenue because CAR is a landlocked country. This leaves farmers with little to no opportunities for growth in the agricultural sector. Only 4 percent of arable land is used each year because of the lack of opportunity for exportation. Subsistence farming dominates for many communities. Additionally, one-third of all children under the age of five are underdeveloped and suffering from chronic malnutrition.

There is a sizeable demand for medical services in CAR; however, this demand remains unmet, and citizens of the Central African Republic are suffering. The unequal distribution of medical staff throughout the country is astounding. In 2004, there were estimates that there were no more than three physicians and nine nurses per 100,000 people.

HIV, malaria, hepatitis-A and rabies are the most common diseases in CAR, putting people in fatal situations without proper treatment. Treatment for these diseases is expensive, putting the families of these patients in financial strain. This compels them to give up other necessities, such as food. Preventative measures are often too expensive. The burden of disease is caused by a lack of preventative measures, and it pushes families deeper into poverty.

Some of the causes of poverty in Central African Republic cannot be fixed, such as their relative location to the coast, which affects the amount of exportation. However, other issues have the potential for change. The health care system, for example, can become more accessible, especially for rural communities. Accessible in two ways, one being that there can be a larger number of clinics throughout the country with more physicians per 100,000 people. The other way to become more accessible is for treatment and preventative methods to become free. There is still hope for citizens of the Central African Republic.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr

Education in Africa A new education company, Bridge International, is transforming the landscape of education in Africa. Bridge improves education through technology and data analytics. The goal is not only to provide universal education to communities in need but also to use data gathered from thousands of schools to improve administration.

Bridge works to expand educational access. Worldwide there are 263 million children not in school. Bridge improves education for roughly 250,000 children living under what the World Bank defines as extreme poverty.

Beyond a lack of access to education, the problem in many African countries is the poor quality of education. In many countries, there is little infrastructure to ensure accountability needed to provide adequate education. A recent World Bank report stated that the average teacher absentee rate in Uganda was 56 percent and 47 percent in Kenya. Additionally, 67 percent of Kenyan government school teachers cannot pass exams based on the curriculum that they teach.

Many schools in Africa have to deal with communities in which literacy is the least of their concerns because famine, disease and malnourishment are prevalent. This means that generations have been unable to obtain a solid educational foundation. Many children go through school, but often not even learning to read.

Bridge improves education in Africa through innovative technology. Bridge teachers use wireless devices to record both teacher and student attendance. Through this Bridge has achieved an almost 100 percent teacher attendance rate. The “teacher computers” also track lesson pace, assess student scores and measure pupil comprehension. The devices free teachers up from administrative tasks so that they can focus on teaching and helping students who are struggling. The devices also send back data to be analyzed by Bridge administrators for a better educational product.

In Kenya, the 2016 average standardized test scores were 44 percent. However, the average standardized test score for a Bridge student was 59 percent. A recent study by Pencils of Promise, the University of Liberia, the Ministry of Education of Liberia and Bridge demonstrated that after four months there was a clear trend of improved learning among Bridge students. Moreover, after four years at Bridge, the average child’s test scores increase to 74 percent.

Recently, Bridge has partnered with the government of Nigeria to grant one million young people with coding skills. It has partnered with the Liberian government on an initiative to improve public education across the country. It has been proven that if given the correct government clearance, Bridge improves education in Africa.

Bruce Truax

Photo: Flickr

Central African Republic's Poverty Rate
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a country located in the middle of Africa. It is bordered by Chad, Cameroon and South Sudan. Despite its supply of gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, the CAR is incredibly impoverished. The Central African Republic’s poverty rate is considered to be one of the worst in the world, with a GDP per capita of $639.

Political instability in the CAR affects the prosperity of its citizens. In 2013, the Seleka group–a Muslim-affiliated group–seized power in the Christian country. The Anti-Balaka showed Christian resistance and rose up to counter the Seleka. This conflict created a legion of problems in the Central African Republic. In September 2013, Seleka was dissolved. However, there are still remaining rebel groups to this day, known as Ex-Seleka. This conflict has resulted in the use of child soldiers, causing a lack of enrollment in schools and internally displaced persons (IDP) throughout the country. Moreover, this political uncertainty has impaired food rates, health and increased the percentage of people living at less than $1.90 a day.

Unsustainable agriculture practices in the CAR have contributed to its alarming food insecurity rates. Years of conflict and political instability have damaged agricultural activities, and nearly 75% of the country’s population relies on these agricultural activities for food and income.

Malnutrition in the Central African Republic is one of the top concerns for the country. Nearly one-third of the population (1.3 million people) is food insecure, with 47.7% of the entire population undernourished. More than 10% of children suffer from malnutrition. Highly chronic malnutrition rates remain a concern in the CAR. The average life expectancy, for both males and females, is 51.4 years. This is below the international average of 71.4 years. In 2008, 66.26% of the population was living at less than $1.90 a day. This shows incredible under-development. The Central African Republic’s poverty rate shows characteristics of scarcity and hardship.

The Central African Republic’s poverty rate demonstrates a multitude of problems related to the country’s food insecurity, malnourishment and political instability. However, there is hope for the citizens of the Central African Republic. The United States has provided assistance to strengthen the U.N.’s mission to address the continuing humanitarian crisis in the CAR. The United States has provided approximately $500 million in development and security assistance, helping the people of the CAR to find long-term stability and peace. The World Food Programme (WFP) has begun its first food voucher program to assist more than 100,000 people affected by conflict. The organization plans to provide more than 1.2 million people in the CAR with nutrients for life-saving assistance.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic is a nation with a long history of political turmoil and humanitarian crises. It is also consistently named among the poorest nations in the world and has some of the worst global health indicators. The country has the sixth highest infant mortality rate and the third-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. As recently as 2013, a major crisis displaced over 25% of the population and almost collapsed the nation’s already precarious health system. Although it seems as if the CAR is finally able to stabilize its political situation—for the first time in its history, the nation has a democratically-elected president and parliament—endemic poverty and poor health infrastructure coupled with a tropical climate makes the prevalence of disease a major problem. Here are four of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic:

  1. Malaria: The mosquito-spread disease is endemic to the Central African Republic. Malaria infects a large portion of the population at least once a year. It accounts for 40% of all medical consultations and is the leading cause of death amongst children. Malaria is the primary public health issue and one of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic. Many international organizations, in partnership with the government, have attempted to carry out projects such as free treatment for children under five and mosquito netting distributions to curb the effect of the disease in the nation.
  2. HIV/AIDS: The CAR has one of the highest rates of HIV in Central and Western Africa. The rate is at 4.9% and is one of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic. People in urban areas, especially women, are at the highest risk of contracting the disease. Due to constant conflict and political turmoil, treatment is often hard to find. Organizations such as the UNHCR help diagnose and provide treatment, but they often suffer in conflict situations. In the 2013 crisis, looters descended on several facilities.
  3. Cholera: In 2016, the medical community panicked at reports of a cholera outbreak in the Central African Republic. Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. After the latest humanitarian crisis in 2013, thousands of people were displaced and access to clean water became very limited. This led to a breeding ground for cholera and its ensuing spread throughout the country. UNICEF and other organizations quickly mobilized to contain the outbreak.
  4. Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious bacterial disease that affects the lungs and spreads easily in crowded spaces. Over the past decades, TB has been on the rise in the Central African Republic. The forced displacement of large swathes of the population due to constant ongoing crises often disrupts treatment and prevention operations. Tuberculosis is also a leading killer of HIV-positive people. In 2012, there were 8,084 reported cases of TB—a 44% increase from the year before.

The tropical climate of the Central African Republic means it is already a hotspot for contagious and infectious diseases; a precarious health system coupled with endemic poverty makes matters even worse. Although many international organizations have made a concerted effort to address these issues, the constant political conflict and instability make it extremely hard for them to properly do their job. The international community should help the CAR by not only providing medical aid and supplies but also helping it build a stable government that will properly handle these issues.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr