An all too familiar picture in the CAR

A woman walks among tents in Ecole Liberty where many Muslim civilians have fled to seek shelter and run from the violence in Central Africal Republic. Religious tensions are making it hard for aid workers to deliver aid in the conflict-torn country. Photo by: S. Phelps / UNHCR

Aid workers are facing growing pains in the Central African Republic as religious tensions are putting a strain on their ability to deliver aid — an all too familiar scene from just over a year ago.

The overthrow of then President Francois Bozize by Seleka rebels last March sent shockwaves of concern to the international community, as clashes between the two factions threatened to destabilize the country.

Several aid groups decided to pull out, suspend operations or reduce them. Now, international organizations are again stuck with the difficult choice to stay or leave. For one, international medical group MSF has “drastically” reduced its activities at the airport in Bangui and suspended plans to expand its work there due to the increasing violence.

A number of them have also been left with fewer resources.

The World Food Program said it is running out of funds for its food distributions. The U.N. agency in Bangui would need close to $107 million to continue operations until August. Food resources are expected to be 90 percent depleted by next month.

And the violence is also being directed at the aid workers, themselves, as was the case with two UNHCR staff members who just released from captivity by refugees — allegedly rebels — who felt frustrated with the degree of humanitarian assistance.

The European Union plans to hold on Jan. 20 a high-level meeting to deal with the situation in the former French colony, “take stock of the humanitarian challenges … and identify priorities for a sustained and effective humanitarian engagement,” said EU humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who acknowledged the need to create a safe environment for the delivery of assistance.

Details of the talks are still unknown, but several donors are expected to announce funding pledges.

But will the meeting push through? Will it help address the growing problems of aid delivery? Will the international community be able to sustain its attention — and support — for the CAR, with other crises lingering in Syria and South Sudan?

Clearly, the political situation is a mess and needs to be resolved, but the humanitarian tragedy likewise needs some serious, sustained attention.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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