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Type of document: Institutional document
Topic: Actions/initiatives/projects
Geographic descriptors: Central African Republic
Language: English
Source: www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=53902
Date of publication: 19 June 2006
Long Abstract: CAR: Aid official urges donors to help 50,000 displaced civilians

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BANGUI, 13 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - A humanitarian official has appealed to the international community to help some 50,000 people in the Central African Republic (CAR) who were forced to flee into the bush by fighting between insurgents and the national forces in the northwest of the country.

Mario Baldin, head of the Italian nongovernmental organisation Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), said at a media briefing on Monday that a relief operation launched on 11 April in Markounda, in the CAR's Ouham Prefecture, had been forced to shut down because of a lack of funding. The operation had provided food and non-food items - such as blankets, tarpaulins and medicine donated by United Nations agencies including the UN World Food Programme, the UN Children's Fund, the UN refugee agency, the World Health Organization and the UN Development Programme - to civilians who had been displaced by an insurgency in the region.

"The humanitarian situation in the northwest region is difficult," he said. "The situation is bad in the town of Markounda and worst in the town of Paoua." Fighting in the northwest has disrupted all social activities. Schools have closed, and health facilities lack medicine or have been shut down for lack of personnel and supplies. Food is scarce, as displaced farmers were unable to harvest their crops before they fled.

"It is horrible to see people live in the bush," Baldin said. "Our plan is to go back in the region with more assistance to alleviate the plight of the people." He appealed to the international community to contribute money to help people in Markounda and Batangafo towns in Ouham Prefecture and in Paoua in Ouham-Pendé, who are living in deplorable conditions.

Unidentified armed groups have carried out attacks in the northwestern region since late 2005. The CAR government has acknowledged the existence of rebel groups in the region but, so far, none of these groups is controlling any territory. Two government soldiers died in Markounda on 28 September 2005 in fighting between the national army and the antigovernment forces. Early in 2006, 104 civilians were reportedly killed in the town of Pauoa when presidential guards were deployed to the area to crush the rebellion.

"People in the region are living in a situation of lawlessness and are frightened by any person bearing guns," said Baldin, who had visited Markounda and Paoua. The displaced had suffered "serious abuses" by government soldiers. Fifteen villages in the region had been burnt, rendering 1,870 people homeless, and the need for medical care and food in the whole region was acute, he said.

COOPI's official in charge of the relief operation in Markounda, Monica Weisz, said the displaced people would continue to face difficulties because the relief operation in Markounda had ended. "The food situation in the region will be difficult in the meantime," she said.

A spokesman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Maurizio Giuliano, said the displaced people "were dying of malaria; while malnutrition makes them, especially children, highly vulnerable to deadly diseases".

Relief operations in the troubled northwest depend on contributions by donor countries. Political observers in CAR have warned that without increased aid from abroad, circumstances in the northwest may deteriorate further.

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