Mirabelle Kima in Cameroon
Over the last couple of months, the Central African Republic and South Sudan have seen their populations suffering due to the eruption of violence. In both cases, the crisis has forced thousands to flee their homes, fearing for their lives. Priority needs for those displaced include food, shelter and blankets, and better access to clean water and sanitation will reduce the risk of disease for many thousands of people.
Both countries had made real progress towards improving their health systems recently, but the outbreaks of violence have compromised these achievements, making recovery even more challenging.
The result is two very complex emergencies, playing out over the vast lands and rivers of South Sudan and Central African Republic’s forests. Complex emergencies are not new, of course; in the last decade, they have become more common. The violence causes one disaster, but this then creates or exacerbates other problems within the country. Health systems are disrupted, and sometimes destroyed, education often becomes impossible and critical services such as sanitation and agriculture are put on hold. In Central African Republic, 80 per cent of health facilities are not working, many schools are closed, access to water and sanitation is more difficult and farming is in crisis. Consequently, recovery takes longer and people's’ coping mechanisms are pushed to the limit.
Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the Central African Republic Red Cross Society, says the situation in Central African Republic is dire. “Agriculture and the entire economy of the country are severely affected. The sanitation systems are under pressure and malaria is killing a lot of people because of the lack of protection and treatment,” he says.
The latest figures available for both Central African Republic and South Sudan show both countries in precarious situations, with many people living in extreme conditions. In both cases, more than 50 per cent of their population lives on less than 1 US dollar per day, a figure that represents more than 7 million people already at crisis point before the outbreak of violence.
South Sudan was known to have the highest maternal mortality rate, with 1 in 7 women dying from pregnancy-related causes. It is easy to assume that this can only have increased over the course of the last couple of months.
“Our country was working hard to improve the lives of women and children over the last years, but this crisis is really putting a huge threat on these efforts and we are very concerned that it will take us years to get back to where we were,” says John Lobor, South Sudan Red Cross Deputy Secretary General.
The international community has a strong role to play in these two situations which, for too long, remained silent disasters. It needs to remain mobilized and support forward-thinking initiatives in both of these countries if either is to emerge from these crises and reattain the development gains they made in the past.