Renewed violence in Central African Republic halts life-saving humanitarian work

Published: 4 October 2015 16:55 CET

Gwen Eamer, IFRC

Local and international humanitarian agencies have been forced to stop providing life-saving services to thousands of Central Africans, as a result of escalating violence in the capital, Bangui. Since the violence began on 26 September, the Red Cross has been the only humanitarian agency able to move inside the city of three quarters of a million people, providing life-saving first aid in the streets, transporting the severely wounded to health facilities, and collecting the bodies of those killed in the fighting. However, as the violence ebbs and flows, even the Red Cross and its network of volunteers is being prevented from reaching all areas.

With street-level, door-to-door fighting in the city’s residential neighbourhoods, the Central African Red Cross has called on armed groups to ensure the Red Cross is able to access the wounded in all parts of the city. “Already, the Red Cross is facing shortages of fuel, body bags and other tools needed to carry out our work,” says Richard Hunlede, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) head of delegation in the Central African Republic. “As the only humanitarian actor able to directly access families affected by the fighting, it’s critical that we’re able to continue,” he adds.

The renewed violence has forced 27,000 people to flee their homes in Bangui over a period of only six days, adding to the 365,000 Central Africans already internally displaced by the three-year-old conflict in the country. The crisis reaches far beyond the capital, with the conflict in Bangui causing essential medicines to run short across the country and cutting off thousands of people from the basic humanitarian assistance they rely on to survive. Those newly displaced within the city likewise face hardship, as the makeshift camps where they are gathering lack basic necessities like potable water, shelter and sanitation systems.

Armed groups have targeted humanitarian agencies’ homes and offices, and expatriate staff have taken refuge in two secured buildings in the city. Among the 12 people from IFRC’s Central Africa delegation who are sheltering together, morale remains high and work continues despite the challenges.  

The IFRC launched an emergency appeal in February 2014 seeking 1.1 million Swiss francs to assist the Central African Red Cross in providing support to at least 50,000 people through emergency health, food security, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and advocating for peace. In August 2014, that appeal was expanded to 10 million Swiss francs with 150,000 people targeted to receive support. The appeal is currently 18 per cent funded.