Conflicts in the Central African Republic have had devastating effects on the country’s civilians, particularly the civil war that began in 2012. The healthcare system has become less effective as qualified doctors and nurses move to safer areas, and aid is often denied due to unsafe commuting conditions. Along with a one-third decrease in qualified medical staff, clean water supplies are becoming scarce because water leaks cannot be easily repaired. Due to an unstable healthcare system and less access to clean water and food, many diseases are becoming more prominent among the Central African Republic’s population. Below are two of the top diseases in the Central African Republic that are causing some of the highest mortality rates for both children and adults.

Malaria

Malaria is not only one of the deadliest diseases in the Central African Republic but is the top fatal disease in the world. Malaria is responsible for more than eight percent of total deaths in the country and 32.8 percent of deaths in children under five years old. This number has dramatically risen in direct correlation to the increase in malnutrition. The Central African Republic civil war has detrimentally affected healthcare, making malaria more widespread but less treatable. The war has forced civilians out of their homes, leaving them without shelter and protection against mosquito bites, and resulting in the destruction of 70 percent of existing medical centers.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is combating malaria, and many of the top diseases in the Central African Republic, by bringing aid in the form of treatments and shelters, particularly, mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria. The aim is to reach 80 percent of the Central African Republic’s civilians with aid in order to control the malaria problem. However, many locations are simply difficult to reach and the civil war only complicates this. MSF has designed mobile treatment facilities to treat a wider range of people.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a major problem in the Central African Republic and is ranked number nine on the world’s most fatal diseases list. This disease affects 15 percent of adults, most of whom are young women. Not only is the afflicted person severely affected by the disease, but many children have been orphaned by an infected parent or abandoned by their family for contracting HIV/AIDS. The Central African Republic has one of the highest rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission in the world.

The World Bank’s Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program has provided more than $18 million to African nations since 2001 to combat this disease. This has helped to supply medical centers with proper medicine, such as ARV, which prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In addition, World Bank aid has helped provide vaccines, educational services and mobile services to reach more isolated areas. This funding, however, is limited and not sufficient in reaching all patients in need of treatment. Many patients have also become resistant to the primary drug that is being used for treatment, and additional funding is needed to develop new and effective medicine.

Although these top diseases in the Central African Republic have had detrimental effects on its civilians, there are many forms of aid and organizations that are determined to decrease their crippling effects.

Miryam Wiggli

Photo: Flickr

Education in theEducation in the Central African Republic
In 2016, militiamen in the Central African Republic began setting up base at schools and preventing students from attending classes. In September, the U.N. responded by ordering the militia groups to vacate the schools, threatening to send in forces if they didn’t comply. The U.N.’s goal was to enable children to resume their education in the Central African Republic.

The Central African Republic, a land-locked nation of 5 million people, was thrown into a brutal civil war when its government was forced out in 2013 by Muslim Seleka rebels. According to the national post, the civil war has led to the country being ranked 187 out of 188 countries on the human development index.

According to the U.N., 10,000 children in the Central African Republic were kept from school due to the presence of militiamen. About a third of all schools in the country were either set on fire, shot by bullets, pillaged or occupied by armed groups. As a result, approximately 400 primary schools were shut down.

The U.N. took a firm stand against the militia and issued a statement known as “Minusca,” which mandated that no armed forces go within 1,650 feet of schools and warned against further interference in education in the Central African Republic.

UNICEF also denounced the militia groups’ behavior. UNICEF’s Chief of Communications in the Central African Republic, Donaig Le Du, issued a firm statement that despite the conflict and civil war occurring, education in the Central African Republic should be spared. School is not politically affiliated or party to the conflict, she said, and children should not be prevented from attending.

Despite disruption in areas near Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, children across the country returned back to school to resume their educations at the end of September as a result of the U.N.’s warning.

The U.N. recently reported that since the civil war broke out in the Central African Republic, “considerable progress” has been made. Ten thousand U.N. troops and 1,700 police are keeping peace as well between armed groups, and an additional 12,000 peacekeepers are stationed in the country. Although the state of the nation remains fragile, it is in a better place overall than it was in 2013.

Alex Fidler

Refugees in Central African Republic

The recent internal conflict in Central African Republic has prompted many of its citizens to flee to neighboring nations or safer places within the country. After settling into host communities, UNHCR (the United Nations refugee agency) has been able to provide assistance to the refugees and help them acclimate to new areas.

Here are six facts that you should know about refugees in the Central African Republic:

  1. Nearly 418,000 refugees in the Central African Republic are internally displaced because of the current conflict in the country. However, even prior to these issues many neighboring cities and countries were already hosting refugees from the Central African Republic. The new influx of refugees has prompted new response plans to accommodate these people, such as the CAR Regional Refugee Response Plan.
  2. Including those who are internally displaced, there are approximately 2.7 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance, as well as 2.4 million children who are affected by the crisis.
  3. Almost one million citizens have fled their homes to seek refuge in local mosques and churches, or as far as Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After these journeys, many arrive having endured brutal attacks from heavily armed fighters along the way and are suffering from extreme malnutrition.
  4. The majority of these refugees are able to successfully settle into host villages or refugee camps. Here, UNHCR and partners provide basic social services and help the refugees to integrate into their new homes.
  5. UNHCR has received $24.7 million in aid to assist refugees in the Central African Republic. However, this is only 11 percent of the original $225.5 million that the organization appealed for. Foreign aid continues to help refugees become comfortable in their new surroundings, providing for basic needs and protection while they acclimatize.
  6. However, the basic needs of the refugees in the Central African Republic surpass the amount of aid that has been provided. More than 20 percent of the refugees arriving in camps are vulnerable with specific needs and health issues, such as malaria and malnutrition. While the UNHCR teams work to provide things such as emergency supplies and medical care, there is not enough funding to provide optimal assistance.

While UNHCR cannot provide the amount of assistance necessary, it has still been successful at helping refugees to acclimate to their host communities. As the internal conflict in the Central African Republic continues, foreign aid will continue to assist those who turn to host communities for refuge.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

Congo RefugeesAlmost half a million people have fled the Central African Republic (CAR) as a result of ongoing violence occurring in the region. Among those refugees fleeing violence in the CAR, 110,000 have sought shelter in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The support shown by Congolese for the neighbors from CAR is exemplary. We should remember that this is one of the poorer regions in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the hosts already live below the poverty line,” Stefano Severe, the United Nations Refugee Regional Representative for Central Africa said on the organization’s website.

The CAR has been plagued by widespread conflict since 2013, when rebel group Seleka marched on the capital, overthrowing the president, François Bozizé, bringing instability and unrest to the country. The political struggle quickly led to violence among the Muslim and Christian communities in the area, as rival militia groups unleashed rounds of terror upon the region.

Amnesty International reported that international war crimes and crimes against humanity have regularly been committed throughout the nation, “including killings, mutilation of bodies, abductions, recruitment and use of child soldiers and forced displacement of populations.”

According to the United Nations News Centre, intercommunal violence in the CAR erupted in September, after nine months of improved stability in the country, killing 130 people and raising the number of internally displaced persons in the area by 18 percent. This led to a mass exodus of individuals out of the nation. Many of these residents have fled across the Ubangai River, bordering the DRC, with the aim of escaping the conflict occurring in the region.

While the majority of these individuals reside in refugee camps, approximately a third of the refugees in the DRC are staying with local Congolese citizens that are reaching out to help the displaced individuals, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Residents of a town named Zongo have come together to improve the lives of the people flowing into their community. Located on the banks of the Ubangi River, directly across from Bangui – the capital of the CAR, the town is often the first place refugees enter after they flee the city.

“We are Congolese. We always offer shelter to someone who had to flee,” Zongo resident Blandine Ngeki said to the UNHCR.

Schools in the border town have increasingly stepped up their efforts to take in refugee children who are eager to continue their education, despite the lack of monetary funding they receive. In particular, the Mohamad Primary School in Zongo has set up six new temporary classrooms to give educational opportunities to the displaced children in the area.

“UNHCR gave us some plastic sheeting and benches. We have eight teachers,” Abdulaye Livana, the school’s manager, said to the U.N. Refugee Agency. “Only finding money for their salaries is not easy.”

Health centers throughout the area have also given aid to the influx of displaced persons entering the community, despite the lack of money they have.

“Sometimes, the refugees do not have much,” said Jacob Wakanza, manager of a health center that frequently subsidizes costs to help refugees in need. “It can be less than the treatment would normally cost. We try to show solidarity. They are human beings.”

The UNHCR’s ability to help refugees fleeing violence in the CAR has been hindered by a lack of funding. Earlier this year, the U.N. organization called on donor nations to pledge $500 million in aid to help the refugees fleeing the CAR and Nigeria, as well as the neighboring communities that are hosting them.

“UNHCR is doing its best to help local communities in this situation, including those near the border and next to the refugee camps,” Severe said.

Lauren Lewis

Sources: UNHCR 1, UNHCR 2, AllAfrica, UN News Centre, Leadership News, Newsweek, Amnesty International
Photo: Live58

Central_African_Republic_Children
UNICEF is halfway to its goal for assisting the children of the Central African Republic who continue to suffer due to sectarian violence and political instability.

UNICEF requested $70.9 million for malnourished children in the Central African Republic at the beginning of this year. The plan called for food and basic health services to be made available to the children. As of December, the organization has raised just over half that amount.

By the end of this year, UNICEF had planned for:

  • 1.2 million people to have access to basic health services and medicine
  • 4,000 children to be released from armed forces and groups and have access to alternative education opportunities
  • 40,000 highly vulnerable households in remote areas to be assisted with water, sanitation and hygiene and non-food items interventions

The Central African Republic has been in a state of conflict that escalated two months ago with the “worst violence” the capital, Bangui, has ever seen.

Clashes among religious groups have created a violent atmosphere especially for Central African Republic children, who have been caught in the middle of these tensions.

Exactly half of the total affected population or 2.4 million Central African Republic children need assistance. UNICEF hopes to reach two million people by the end of the year, including 1.4 million children.

From July to December, the organization has focused on treating vaccine-preventable and water-borne diseases, as well as other infectious diseases. Providing access to clean facilities has also been high on the agenda.

The UNICEF’s Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) provides safe drinking water and sanitation facilities to about 200,000 people in remote areas. “The RRM will continue to advocate for a multi-sectoral response in the hard-to-reach areas,” UNICEF said.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: Reuters, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian_Efforts
On August 11, the United Nations Common Humanitarian Fund allocated $13.2 million to humanitarian efforts in the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to provide much needed life-saving aid to those affected by the ongoing conflict in the African country.

The funds will go toward supporting local humanitarian aid agencies that provide clean drinking water, access to education and healthcare, food, protection, and shelter to vulnerable and displaced people. Though the amount of funds will provide some people with necessary help, it is not nearly what is needed to be able to provide aid for the entire population in need.

“Thanks to donors who have contributed in 2015, this CHF allocation allows humanitarian partners to continue helping thousands of displaced people and host families,” said Aurélien Agbénonci, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in the African country. “However, it is only three percent of the $415 million we still need by the end of the year if we are to save more lives and reach all people in acute need in 2015.”

The Civil War in the Central African Republic between the Muslim Séléka alliance and the anti-Balaka militias with CAR government forces, which are predominantly Christian, began at the end of 2012 and has claimed many civilian lives and displaced many more. Additionally, the Lord’s Resistance Army continues operations within the southeastern region of the country.

According to the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of June 2015, there are about 463,400 refugees from the Central African Republic, and 368,900 internally displaced people. In total, OCHA concludes that there are presently 2.7 million people in the Central African Republic who are in critical need of humanitarian aid.

Unfortunately, the CAR is reportedly “one of the most difficult and dangerous environments in the world for aid workers.” On July 22, the UN condemned a surge of violence against aid workers along with the July 18 attack on a World Food Program food convoy which left a driver dead.

It is crucial that international humanitarian aid organizations continue to demonstrate their commitment to aiding those in need. The UN’s latest allocation of funds, though not sufficient to provide for every single victim, sent the right message. Aid organizations must never falter in the effort to protect and preserve the lives of innocent civilians, even in the face of danger.

Jaime Longoria

Sources: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN News Centre 1, UN News Centre 2
Photo: UN News Centre

School_Lunch_Program
The World Food Program began a massive school lunch program this past May across the Central African Republic. This week, they began a campaign that aims to battle common intestinal worm infections in children in cooperation with the school lunch program.

Many children in the Central African Republic suffer from intestinal worm infections that affect their health, ability to intake nutrition, mental development and the ability to study in school. The program that collaborates with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education aims to improve the health of 250,000 children across the Republic.

One deworming pill is effective for six months. When children are healthy and worm-free, they can both focus in school and study at home more effectively.

The school lunch program that began in early May of 2015 has been very effective so far. Over 155,000 metric tons of food have been distributed. Ninety schools, over 70,000 primary school children and 4,300 elementary school children across the capital of the Central African Republic are currently receiving school lunches.

The meal includes rice, beans, oil and salt. In many cases, this school lunch is the only food children will consume in a day. The food encourages families to value attendance and enrollment in school. It also improves the efficacy of the children’s schooling experience, enabling concentration and enthusiasm.

The school lunch and deworming campaign in the Central African Republic follow political violence, armed conflict and chaos that began in December of 2014. Thousands of people have been killed and almost 1 million have left their homes due to political violence.

The instability and violence caused the majority of schools in the Central African Republic to close, leaving children without access to education. The few schools that remained open were too unsafe for children to attend. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 45 percent of schools are currently still closed in the Central African Republic and 35 percent of the population is food insecure.

According to the U.N., 3,500 to 6,000 children have been recruited as child soldiers in armed groups in the Central African Republic. Parents and many organizations like World Vision are encouraging school attendance in an effort to diminish children’s vulnerability to recruitment.

According to World Vision, Claudia Geraldine, a teacher from Bangui that educates boys and girls from age 5 to age 14 said, “I’m encouraging parents to send children to school now because it is safe.”

The school lunch and deworming programs have so far been successful due to the tenacious, determined, collaborative efforts of local community members along with large organizations. “Everybody plays a part in the process. The head of the school organizes the logistics and mobilizes parents to help. Local women volunteer to prepare the food, and the children fetch water. This is making a real difference in the lives of children in Bangui,” said Fikru Gebeyehu, a World Vision food assistance expert.

– Aaron Andree

Sources: World Food Programme, World Vision USAID
Photo: World Food Programme,

malnutrition in CAR
Last year, clashes in the Central African Republic, or CAR, between Christian and Islamic militants claimed the lives 2,116 civilians. The CAR is fast becoming home to a ghastly humanitarian crisis, in which violence is exacerbating malnutrition.

In the capital city of Bangui, the number of children facing life-threatening malnutrition has tripled since violence began escalating in December of 2013. Their situation is being complicated by the brutal course that the conflict has taken.

Action Against Hunger collected over 1,000 case studies of parents of malnourished children in the CAR between July 2013 and March 2014, and found that 75 percent presented symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD can significantly impair a mother’s ability to nurse a child. Nurses in health centers around Bangui have reported that some traumatized mothers become convinced that they cannot produce milk. Others simply do not respond to their child’s needs—some have even attempted suicide and infanticide. PTSD in children can also play a role in malnourishment, as traumatized children may refuse to eat.

The conflict in the Central African Republic is not only causing malnutrition—it is also exporting it.

Over the past year, conflict in Nigeria and the Central African Republic has displaced some 1.2 million people. These migrants typically seek refuge in neighboring countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon, further straining the resources of countries already dealing with rampant malnourishment.

On Feb. 12, the U.N. requested $2 billion in aid for people across Africa’s Sahel belt—a semi-arid strip of land south of the Sahara Desert that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

“The violence and conflict has a devastating effect, it is casting a shadow across the region,” said Robert Piper, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel.

Parker Carroll

Sources: Eyewitness News, The Guardian 1,  The Guardian 2,   The Guardian 3
Photo: Africa Up Close

central african republic ceasefire
After a year and a half of vicious bloodshed, Christian militia and Muslim Seleka rebels have drawn up a ceasefire in response to the deaths of thousands in Central African Republic. Requests have been subsided for both groups, with one of the failed demands being that the country is split based on the religious line on behalf of the rebel forces.

The warring groups traveled to the Congo to have the ceasefire initiated by the Congolese president, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, the formal mediator of the conflict. After the signing, President N’Guesso made a statement to the press: “We have taken the first step today. The journey is long, but we have made promises. After what has happened here, I am confident.” Both groups hold hope for future democratic elections to replace multiple informal and interim leaders.

The effects of this violence have not gone unnoticed, with over 1 million people fleeing their homes due to the conflict. While the Central African Republic ceasefire appears to be the first step to a different future, both sides took precautions at the signing ceremony with heavy military representation in case the other forgot their capabilities.

Both sides have shown their willingness to enforce the ceasefire, and those that are caught breaking the truce would face arrest.

Head of the Seleka delegation made a statement after the signing. “We have signed this ceasefire agreement today in front of everyone. Our commitment is firm and irreversible,” said Mohamed Moussa Dhaffane.

Seleka’s violent rule began back in March of 2013 when they rose to power, a group made up of various northerners from neighboring countries like Chad and Sudan. The “tit for tat” aggressions quickly developed the anti-balaka militia and the two warring sides immediately fell into an endless cycle of battle, even after the Seleka government stepped down in early 2014. Since then the violence has continued to affect Central African Republic, causing death tolls in the thousands for both sides.

Both the Seleka and anti-Balaka leadership appear willing to concede to the changes required by a ceasefire, but the amount of work to be done to bring the country together will take much more than a few agreements and a little time. The future of CAR is cloudy as both groups are forced to work with one another again and put on a united front for their people, as well as the rest of the world.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, Big Story, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

flooding_in_central_african_republic
June marked the beginning of the Central African Republic’s extremely rainy season. During this annual season, CAR experiences daily thunderous rainstorms that leave dire destruction in their wake. The heavy downpours destroy homes and tents, and the ubiquitous water pools into stagnant bodies of dirty and diseased water. The flooding in Central African Republic has caused contractions of cholera and infections, especially amongst those with wounds inflicted by local crime and violence.

The CAR is already plagued by chronic poverty and deadly crime. Additionally, there are an estimated 220,000 displaced people inhabiting Bangui alone in temporary “homes” that resemble eclectic forts rather than crucial shelter.

The flooding in Central African Republic is destroying the makeshift shelters the locals have made from any materials available, such as tarps, wood, and cloth. It penetrates their temporary roofs and douses them in the night, keeping them from meaningful sleep. UNICEF has rightfully referred to their situation as a ‘watery purgatory.’ The resultant stagnant water is also responsible for cultivating other deadly diseases such as malaria and typhoid, especially among young children who can be less weary of the dangers of playing near diseased, festering water pools. The situation also has people trekking through thick, deep mud.

Jacques Terrenoire, the Country Director for the Central African Republic at Mercy Corps. describes the dire circumstances: “Now that it has rained, people are just walking in the mud… There are often between five and ten people living under a shoddy shelter, and if there is a strong wind it could be torn away.”

Thankfully, Mercy Corps and UNICEF are both intervening in CAR and providing priceless, much needed aid through several means. UNICEF has, in conjunction with other groups, created a precautionary Cholera Treatment Center at the airport in Bangui. Thus, in the event of a cholera outbreak, officials will be prepared to treat the local population.

UNICEF is also distributing soap and water to those present, and they are building latrines throughout the country as well. Mercy Corps is practicing heavy relief in the CAR as well; the organization maintains teams throughout the country to teach displaced peoples about cleanliness and hygiene in addition to distributing clean water and clean hygiene materials such as soap and containers for water.

— Arielle Swett

Sources: MercyCorps, UNICEF Connect
Photo: Save the Children