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Thousands of Displaced in Kabo Living in Appalling Conditions

The United Nations refugee agency says it finally managed to gain access over a week ago to a remote northern area of the Central African Republic, following months of insecurity. A UNHCR spokesman tells VOA aid workers found more than 2,000 displaced civilians living in appalling conditions in and around the town of Kabo and surrounding villages.

The town of Kabo is located around 400 kilometers north of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. It is in a very remote, practically inaccessible area.

Although a UN team of aid workers finally managed to get to the region, UN refugee spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, tells VOA it is not clear when they will be able to return because of insecurity.

He says this is unfortunate since these people are desperate for all kinds of assistance. He says the internally displaced people, who are mainly ethnic Ngamas from Kabo, were forced to flee attacks by various armed groups. He says the fighting has been going on and off since November.

"Our staff reported the displaced have very limited access to safe drinking water and in some places they are forced to drink the water in the open fields along with their livestock. The IDPs live in mud huts and their living conditions are dire. There are serious health risks due to lack of water and sanitation facilities," said Mahecic. "Our staff also noted that the incidents of diarrhea and malaria are widespread. Basic health care is available only in the town of Kabo, which is a long walking distance from the current locations of these displaced people."

Mahecic says the displaced people need food as their crops were either destroyed by the locusts or were stolen by armed bandits. He says the displaced also asked for clean drinking water, education, plastic sheeting for shelter, more protection and security from the armed cattle raisers.

"These communities also told UNHCR about widespread cases of rape, killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and destruction of property," said Mahecic. "According to them, these atrocities have been mostly perpetrated by the armed cattle raisers, but also by the other armed groups and bandits in the area including government soldiers."

The UNHCR estimates more than 125,000 people have been forced out of their homes in northern CAR since 2005, many of them women and children. And, another 137,000 people are refugees in neighboring Chad and Cameroon.