1 million displaced, Measles Outbreak and More Violence Central African Republic

The New Year is off to a rough start in the Central African Republic. The United Nations said today that 930,000 people are displaced from fighting in CAR. That is over one fifth of the total population. Nearly half the residents of Bangui are displaced.

The displaced are hiding in the forest, or huddled at makeshift camps. The largest of these spontaneous camps is at the airport in Bangui, which has doubled in size over the past two weeks, from 50,000 to 100,000. Medicines Sans Frontiers is one of the few humanitarian organizations on the ground in CAR, but they have had to scale back their work due to insecurity.  To make matters worse, there has been an outbreak of Measles at at least two IDP camps. The UN says it is planning a mass vaccination campaign for 60,000 children.

Despite the authorization of a French-backed African Union peacekeeping force in December, the the security situation is not improving. That, in turn, is significantly limiting the humanitarian response.

A month after France sent additional troops to the Central African Republic to join African peacekeepers trying to restore stability, the violence is getting worse, “making the delivery of humanitarian relief ever more difficult,” [UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch] said.

“Targeted attacks against civilians, looting and the presence of armed elements at some displacement sites have severely limited humanitarian access to those in need of urgent assistance,” Mr. Baloch said. “We have heard about a lot of revenge attacks.” Some attacks have taken place inside health clinics.

In Bangui, the capital, where the year began with gun battles between the factions, around 512,000 people — more than half the population — have fled their homes and more than 100,000 have sought shelter and protection around the airport, where aid agencies are delivering emergency supplies.

The Security Council authorized the  French-backed African Union Peacekeeping force with the expectation that it would be able to restore a modicum of order as a political peace process takes hold. That does not appear to be happening, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation seems to be sowing more unrest and instability. Unless the security situation improves — and fast —  these figures will only get worse.