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CAR Neighbors Need Funds to Cope with Refugees


FILE - Children sit inside a container truck as they wait to depart to the west of the country towards the border with Cameroon, in a convoy escorted by African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces as they flee sectarian violence in Bangui, C.A.R.

FILE - Children sit inside a container truck as they wait to depart to the west of the country towards the border with Cameroon, in a convoy escorted by African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces as they flee sectarian violence in Bangui, C.A.R.

A European Union official says countries that share borders with the troubled Central African Republic urgently need millions of dollars to cope with an increasing number of refugees. One of those countries is Cameroon, where nearly 80,000 C.A.R. residents have fled since December.

The past year of violence in the C.A.R. has forced nearly a million people to flee their homes, including an estimated 160,000 in Bangui, the capital.

Since December, more than 100,000, mostly Muslims, have fled to neighboring countries.

The EU commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva, says the living conditions of the refugees and host communities is getting worse.

"Desperate refugees are fleeing for their lives from the Central African Republic, small communities are receiving big numbers of refugees and that makes live difficult," she said. "We have made a decision to double humanitarian aid from three to six million euros [$4-$8 million] so there could be more assistance for shelter, food, medical care for the refugees that cross."

Speaking during a visit Tuesday to Yaounde, Georgieva said efforts to stabilize the C.A.R. and stop the flow of refugees will require taking away guns and machetes from the militias.

EU foreign ministers recently approved a new military mission to the C.A.R. and deployed 850 troops to support the French and African Union forces already in the country.

Also, the United Nations Security Council has authorized an expansion of the African force under U.N. command.

Georgieva says the increased troop strength is needed because the country is descending into total chaos.

"We are working very hard with the United Nations to make it possible for a significant reinforcement of up to 12 000 [troops] to arrive as quickly as possible because stabilizing the Central African Republic is the only way to reduce the flow of refugees into neighboring countries," she said. "The Central African Republic has been forgotten for far too long and we, the international community has a debt to pay. It is a very deep and serious crisis."

The crisis is having a significant impact on Cameroon, which is hosting more than 180,000 refugees from the C.A.R. Host communities have complained of higher food prices in areas where the refugees are lodged, and an increase in disease.
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