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UNHCR calls for humanitarian access as situation worsens in Central African Republic

Source: UNHCR - Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:01 AM
Author: UNHCR
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

BANGUI, Central African Republic, December 13 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency on Friday said the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic continues to deteriorate with tens of thousands seeking shelter from the violence.

In the capital Bangui, the fighting and sectarian violence of the past week has displaced an estimated 159,000 people, with 450 killings reported there and 160 in other parts of the country, according to the Central African Red Cross Society and the Danish Refugee Council. These reports are mainly coming from locations in north-western Central African Republic.

"At the airport in Bangui, there are 38,000 people, currently without latrines or washing facilities and with no shelter from the rains or sun. Conditions there and elsewhere are deteriorating," said a UNHCR spokesman.

He added that some 12,000 people were sheltering in the grounds of the capital's Saint Joseph Mukassa church, which has just one water point. "Local youth have dug latrines and UNHCR has provided plastic sheeting to allow some level of privacy and spaces where people can wash. However, people there urgently need food, shelter, soap and other basic aid," the spokesman said.

Among them are 460 people needing medical attention. This includes 101 pregnant women. There have been three births so far.

At the airport, UNHCR has provided tents to its partner organization, Médecins Sans Frontières, which is running a medical clinic. Aid is also going to other relief agencies, and UNHCR is working with fellow UN agencies and NGOs to scale up humanitarian operations across the Central African Republic. So far help has reached relatively small numbers - 3,500 families in Bangui and another 3,000 helped in Bossangoa - and much more is going to be needed.

"We appeal once again to all parties to let humanitarian help through, and to protect civilians," said the UNHCR spokesman. There are frequent reports of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, sexual and gender-based violence, looting and destruction of property.

Indicative of the turmoil inside the Central African Republic is a rise over the last week in people fleeing to neighbouring countries. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has received close to 1,800 refugees mainly from Bangui: 1,457 into Zongo and more than 300 in Libenge.

Those in Libenge had to walk for several days with their children to reach villages facing Libenge, from where they used boats to cross the Oubangui River. Many arrived exhausted from the 200-kilometre walk across through forest. With the new arrivals, there are now around 47,000 Central African Republic refugees in DRC. The UN refugee agency is relocating the new arrivals to two camps - Mole (Zongo) and Boyabo (Libenge).

Republic of Congo is also registering new arrivals from the prefecture of Lobaye in Central African Republic. Some of the refugees told UNHCR staff that more people were on their way. Since March, more than 10,500 Central African Republic nationals have sought refuge in Republic of Congo. In all, the crisis has driven more than 70,000 people into surrounding countries over the past year.

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