Despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2019, the Central African Republic (CAR) continues to be affected by conflicts between armed groups and by violent crime. The protection needs of civilians are enormous and there are many cases of gender-based violence. Violence between armed groups and against civilians, targeting schools, health facilities and sites housing internally displaced people, has forced thousands to flee since the conflict began in 2013. A quarter of the CAR population (more than 1.3 million people out of a population of 4.9 million) is either internally displaced or living as a refugee in neighbouring countries.
After 7 years of conflict, more than half of the population are in need of humanitarian aid. The insecurity and violence affecting the country has uprooted many people from their homes. 684,000 internally displaced people are taking refuge within the country itself and more than 618,000 are in neighbouring countries. Close to a million children need support and thousands are unable to attend school, because of displacement, or schools being closed down, attacked or occupied by armed groups.
Most displaced people rely on humanitarian assistance for their survival. 51% of CAR’s population does not have enough to eat and almost 38% of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition (WFP). The food security situation has seriously deteriorated because of the renewed conflict between armed groups, low agricultural yields, and the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus prevention measures.
In March 2020, the first case of coronavirus appeared in the CAR, a country ranked second last on the World Human Development Index. The coronavirus adds a health crisis on top of other existing crises and is hitting the local economy hard. Health facilities are scarce and lack sufficient qualified staff, equipment and medical supplies. There are only 7.3 health professionals per 10,000 people in the country.
Insecurity and a lack of transport infrastructure hamper humanitarian access. Humanitarian workers remain a target for armed groups and criminals. In 2020, 2 aid workers lost their lives during the course of their duty and 86 incidents directly affecting humanitarian staff or goods were recorded between January and March 2020 (OCHA).
Since 2014, the EU and its Member States have been the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in the CAR, having provided more than €775 million in aid funding. In 2020, the EU is supporting humanitarian action in the CAR with €22.7 million.
EU humanitarian aid primarily focuses on covering the needs of the most vulnerable – uprooted people in the CAR and host communities – by providing them with food assistance, emergency shelter, access to healthcare, water and sanitation, short-term livelihood and agricultural support, and education. In addition, the EU supports actions that protect civilians. This includes the prevention of sexual violence, support to victims, and actions offering a protective and educational environment for children.
Some EU-funded projects are also helping to respond to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic by providing access to clean water and sanitation for vulnerable people. In addition, €2.5 million of the EU’s humanitarian funding in 2020 is supporting coronavirus control and prevention measures through humanitarian partners, in line with the CAR’s response plan to the pandemic.
The pandemic and its preventive measures have resulted in logistical constraints for the delivery of humanitarian aid. 3 EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flights were organised for the transport of staff and humanitarian cargo (material and medical equipment) to the Central African Republic in May 2020. In June 2020, the EU also cooperated with the WFP for the operation of another flight delivering essential supplies to support the country’s coronavirus response.
Given the geographical proximity of the new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the CAR, the EU is also supporting targeted prevention and preparedness measures in at-risk areas in the CAR as a pre-emptive action.
With widespread violence and poor infrastructure, reaching people in need in the CAR is both difficult and dangerous. In that context, the EU funds the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) that enables aid workers and assistance to reach places that are insecure and difficult to access. EU humanitarian funding also supports the security and coordination of humanitarian aid in the country.
The crisis in the CAR has an impact on its neighbouring countries. More than 618,000 Central African refugees are being hosted mainly in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad. Their prolonged stay puts pressure on the local host communities and their already limited resources. The EU delivers humanitarian assistance to both host communities and Central African refugees in Cameroon and Chad.