The International Rescue Committee says violence, disease and malnutrition are threatening the lives of tens of thousands of displaced people in northwestern Central African Republic. It describes the situation there as a humanitarian disaster.
The problem is the result of fighting between government forces and rebels – forcing civilians into the bush.
Bob Kitchen is heading the International Rescue Committee mission in CAR. From Bangui, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about conditions in the country.
“Kind of multiple things going on in country. In the south end of the country it’s peaceful. There’s no conflict, but there [are] great levels of poverty. CAR is the sixth most poor country in the world…. In the northwest of the country, there’s been a rebellion as a result a conflict going on for the last two years and that had a very significant impact on the population…and then in the northeast, there’s (been) a much more recent conflict and probably more serious in many respects that erupted in October of last year and was for the moment successfully put down by the French army, together with the army of CAR…. But there are indications that that rebellion will start up again,” he says.
For now, most of the attention is focused on the conflict in the northwest. Kitchen says, “That’s had a huge impact on the civilian population. There [are] an estimated 150,000 people that have been driven from their homes at gunpoint and have had to find safe refuge within the bush. The terrain of CAR is very, very dense bush. Very harsh conditions to try to sustain life.”
Kitchen says that armed groups would surround villages, force out the inhabitants and then burn down their homes. Many people are living on berries and roots, although the World Food Program has begun some food distributions.
As for the IRC, Kitchen says, “We’re focusing our efforts in the north part of the country, directly above Bangui…. The International Rescue Committee is preparing to launch a health program where we will be providing support to the local hospital. So people can get free access to health care. And we’ll also be digging wells in the bush away from the villages so people can safely access clean drinking water.”