More than four years after the crisis broke out in December 2013, the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) remains extremely worrying. Since May 2017, new violence between armed groups have forced thousands of people to flee: a quarter of the population is now either internally displaced or living as a refugee in neighbouring countries. Emergency humanitarian needs are on the rise. Access to those in need is challenging due to insecurity. CAR is one the most dangerous countries in the world for humanitarians. Fourteen humanitarian workers were killed in 2017. Six education workers have already been killed in 2018.
Since January 2017, the number of internally displaced people has increased by more than 70% due to attacks by armed groups across the country. Extreme poverty and lack of basic services further exacerbate living conditions. Against this backdrop, humanitarian needs are increasing exponentially, reaching levels similar to the peak of the crisis in 2014. Half the population needs humanitarian assistance. Livelihoods and agricultural activities are severely affected by violence, provoking a substantial decrease in household income compounded by food price increases. Chronic malnutrition is currently among the highest in the world and affects around 40% of children under 5 years (UNICEF).
CAR has the second highest newborn mortality rate in the world (1 in 24). The weak national health system has collapsed and there is a severe shortage of skilled health workers and medical supplies. Up to 58% of health infrastructures are supported by humanitarian organisations. This lack of access to basic healthcare has serious repercussions for the population. Humanitarian needs in CAR remain unmet and consequently spill-over to neighbouring countries. The Central African refugees in Cameroun and Chad are considered a forgotten humanitarian crisis by the European Commission.
With over €475 million provided since 2014, the European Union (Commission + Member States) is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to CAR. The European Commission alone has provided over €108 million in humanitarian aid since 2014.
The Commission's European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO) primarily focuses on covering the needs of the most affected population such as food, health, emergency shelter, water, sanitation and protection of civilians. Relief assistance is provided to internally displaced people as well as to refugees who mostly rely on humanitarian assistance for their survival.
The EU funds food assistance, short-term livelihood and agricultural support as well as interventions to enable free access to primary health care services with a main focus on life-saving interventions for the most vulnerable population. Projects seeking to improve the protection of civilians also receive EU support, including the prevention of sexual violence, medical, psychosocial and legal support to victims, and actions offering a protective and educative environment for children.
To respond to sudden displacements of populations, the EU funds the rapid response mechanism which monitors the humanitarian situation, delivers essential items (such as soap, jerry cans, cooking utensils, mattresses, blankets) and provides access to water, sanitation and hygiene to those who had to flee from their homes quickly, leaving everything behind.
The European Commission contributes to the UN humanitarian air services (UNHAS) which provide the delivery of humanitarian assistance in a country affected by widespread violence and with very poor transportation infrastructure.
The crisis also affects neighbouring countries, in particular Chad and Cameroon, where over half a million Central Africans have fled. Their prolonged stay puts pressure on the local populations who are hosting them and on already scarce resources. EU humanitarian assistance is also delivered in these countries to both host populations and Central African refugees.