Central African Republic: Major needs, major challenges
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||4 February 2011|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Central African Republic: Major needs, major challenges, 4 February 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d5101a91a.html [accessed 17 September 2014]|
BANGUI, 4 February 2011 (IRIN) - Access and funding are among the major challenges facing the 30 or so international agencies working in the Central African Republic (CAR), a country ranked 159 out of 169 in the 2010 UN Development Programme's Human Development Index.
Local armed groups, inter-ethnic clashes and attacks by foreign groups such as the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) restrict access in large parts of this country of 4.5 million people - 192,000 of whom were still displaced in October 2010, according to estimates by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The displaced, whose numbers have risen from 168,000 at the beginning of 2010, are mainly in northern and eastern parts of the country, where armed groups proliferate and violence and impunity are at their worst. They live not in camps, but mainly in the forest, without access to health care, clean water and food, according to OCHA and UNICEF.
Aid workers with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Spain told IRIN the security situation seriously affected their freedom of movement.
Many have fled to neighbouring countries, especially Chad or Cameroon, or to remote areas in the hope of finding safety, but if they find it they invariably have harsh conditions to put up with - no food, little clean drinking water, and no access to health care or education.
"Access became a major constraint in 2010 in several parts of the north and southeast due to increased rebel group and LRA attacks throughout the year. The country was already in a very fragile recovery stage but the recent developments brought it back to an emergency state that makes it very difficult for the humanitarian community to operate," Benny Krasniqi, country director of medical NGO The MENTOR Initiative, told IRIN.
"There are either impassable roads or accessible ones which are very insecure. Our movements in areas of the northeast are restricted to some major axes, but areas around them are completely cut off. The impossible logistics make it very hard for us to get information in remote areas and intervene in a timely fashion in order to provide basic services to the local population," he added.
"Funding for programmes here in CAR has been a constant challenge. The major part has thus far been short-term grants which, given the complexity and restraints - weather, poor infrastructure, shortage of materials, etc. - make timely implementation extremely problematic," Leland Montell, country director of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), told IRIN.
"The loss of a single major donor, as happened to IRC this past year in the protection sector, can lead to the closure of projects, layoffs, and mistrust of the entire NGO community in a given area. It is very destructive to a country programme. Add to this the instability inherent in a post-conflict context, and it is challenging to maintain a cohesive approach," he said.
"A major problem in securing renewal funding is that CAR is not a high-intensity conflict with massive population displacements, so it goes largely unnoticed in a world with tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding and social unrest on a mass scale," he added.
"Many [donors] still prefer to invest in more complex emergencies, like the neighbouring places such as Darfur and Chad," Krasniqi told IRIN.
Funding requirements for the 2011 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) are US$128.8 million for 118 projects (the figure was $149 million in 2010). The 2010 CAP was only 44 percent funded and it is one of the top five underfunded appeals of the year.
As a result, the Humanitarian Country Team is trying to maximize the use of additional funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF).
According to OCHA, $6 million was made available via CERF in 2010, and 11.4 million via CHF ($6 million for projects starting in 2011).
Krasniqi pointed out that it is often difficult to get donors to understand that operating in the CAR context means aid delivery costs are very high.
"Material and all sorts of technical equipment must be purchased either in Cameroon or Chad, and then one has to wait for a month for stuff to be delivered.The other option would be ordering goods in Europe and paying shipping costs, which would mean waiting 3-4 months for the actual delivery," he said.
Another challenge is the high turnover of international staff and the difficulty of deploying even national staff in some areas.
"Recruiting staff for our programmes became a nightmare for many of us [aid agencies]. Working here does not seem to be considered as sexy as Haiti, Pakistan or Sudan, so recruiting for a post may take months, creating huge operational gaps," said Krasniqi.
"Even if international aid agencies offer competitive salaries, it is not easy to find people able to fill some technical jobs - and also, who would want to be posted to the risky and remote areas?"
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]