Lack of aid funds fuelling C Africa crisis: UN

2017-06-01 20:56
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Geneva -A dire lack of aid funds in the strife-torn Central African Republic risks leaving a vacuum that armed groups will fill, dashing hopes of peace, the UN said on Thursday.

Aid workers have already been forced to scale down their activities and food rations have been cut in half, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the country, Najat Rochdi, told reporters.

"The window of opportunity to prevent the crisis from further escalation risks being shut very soon," she warned.

Unless aid workers were given the funding to do their work, she said, "Entire areas of the country (will be) abandoned and armed groups will (fill the) vacuum."

One of the world's poorest nations, CAR has been struggling to recover from a civil war between the Muslim and Christian militias that started in 2013.

But just as the country looked set to begin turning the page on years of bloodshed, a flare-up of sectarian violence last month killed more than 100 people. Another 100 000 were forced to flee their homes in the past two weeks, according to UN numbers.

More than 500 000 people are now internally displaced in CAR. The same number have fled the country.

Aid funding meanwhile is dramatically low.

The UN humanitarian agency has received only a quarter of the $400m it requested for CAR this year.

"With ... the 25% level of funding, and with the new outbreak of violence, it is very difficult to pretend that as a humanitarian community we are up to" the task, Rochdi told reporters in Geneva.

 'Heartbreaking decisions' 

Funding shortfalls had "very real, very severe consequences" in a country where half the population relies on aid, she warned.

Two thirds of the population has no access to clean water and nearly 40 000 children under five suffer from severe, acute malnutrition, she added.

"We are making some very heartbreaking decisions," Rochdi said, warning that the lack of aid was diminishing the chance of peace.

"Unless humanitarian actors are given the means to make a significant and lasting difference, tens of thousands of the most vulnerable people will be cut off from aid," she said.

Increasing aid was the only way of "saving the peace", she insisted.

British charity Oxfam's country director in CAR, Ferran Puig, agreed.

Aid groups have been forced to spend their limited resources responding to emergency needs after attacks like the ones last month in the central town of Bria and the southeastern town of Bangassou, he said. But that means other priorities are being ignored.

Among the programmes being shelved are ones aimed at protecting children from recruitment by armed groups, "something that brings more instability," Puig told reporters.

CAR descended into bloodshed in March 2013 following the overthrow of leader Francois Bozize by Seleka rebels, which triggered the country's worst crisis since its independence from France in 1960.

Read more on:    un  |  francois bozize  |  central african republic  |  central africa

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