Central African Republic
21 May 2013 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners are launching an emergency measles vaccination campaign that will aim to reach 125,000 children in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The five-day campaign, which begins tomorrow, will take place in the conflict-hit Bangui, the country’s capital, after eight children tested positive for the disease last month.
“Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children. Mass violence and armed conflict in CAR has left millions of people without access to basic health care, with hundreds of thousands of children at risk from a disease that can spread rapidly amongst deprived communities,” said UNICEF Representative Souleymane Diabate.
Fighting flared up in CAR in December 2012 when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized Bangui in March forcing President François Bozizé to flee.
The fighting has led to a breakdown of basic services and increased the risk of disease outbreaks in Bangui and across the country. This, along with poor living conditions, and a historically low vaccination rate for measles of 62 per cent, means that the lives of large numbers of children are now at risk from the disease, UNICEF said in a news release.
The agency noted the campaign faces considerable challenges as secure humanitarian access to those in need remains difficult in CAR. In addition, many regions will be even harder to access as the rainy season sets in.
“Wherever access permits, UNICEF is on the ground working with partners to deliver life-saving interventions. Our immediate priorities are to provide emergency response in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and to protect children from violence, separation and recruitment into armed groups,” said Mr. Diabate.
In preparation for the campaign, 246,500 vaccines arrived in Bangui last Wednesday, including 100,000 vaccines purchased by funds donated by the airline easyJet. The vaccines will be used to respond to the measles outbreak in Bangui and to improve routine measles vaccination in high-risk regions of the country.
Since the 24 March 2013 coup, UNICEF has provided direct support for emergency health activities at the four main hospitals in Bangui and health centres throughout the country, including emergency health supplies for up to 141,000 people over three months.
6 May 2013 The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has expressed deep concern over the rise of poaching, armed violence and destruction in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) Dzanga-Sanga National Park, which is on the agency’s World Heritage List.
“I ask the Central African authorities to act quickly and to do everything possible to restore order in the region and to ensure the conservation of the protected area of Dzanga-Sanga,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova.
Last month, men in uniform carried out repeated attacks around the Park, looting equipment from the administration buildings and destroying the facilities.
The park is part of the Sangha Trinational Site (TNS) situated in the north-western Congo Basin, where Cameroon, CAR and Congo meet, and encompasses three contiguous national parks totalling around 750,000 hectares.
Much of the TNS is unaffected by human activity and features a wide range of humid tropical forest ecosystems with rich flora and fauna. Lowland gorillas and forest elephants are two unique species living within the park. The site was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List last year.
Ms. Bokova called on the Governments of the Republic of Congo and the Republic of Cameroon, which share the World Heritage site with CAR, “to share this message with the authorities in Bangui and to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of the Nouabalé-Ndoki and Lobéké National Parks in facing this new threat.”
She also sent a message to the CAR’s Prime Minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, asking him to take urgent measures to ensure the protection of the park and the safety of its people.
In addition, Ms. Bokova said she is alarmed by the upsurge in poaching in Africa, where some 30,000 elephants are killed each year. Many World Heritage properties in Central Africa have recently reported a significant decrease in their elephant and other large mammal populations, and experts fear that organized groups of poachers are taking advantage of the current political situation to expand their operations in the region.
UNESCO has been supporting the TNS site for nearly ten years, with funding from the UN Foundation, the French Fund for the Global Environment and the European Commission.
30 April 2013 The United Nations refugee agency today urged countries to refrain from repatriating refugees to the Central African Republic (CAR), amid worsening violence and human rights abuses there.
“Our aim through issuing this advisory is to see that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld until conditions in CAR allow for safe and dignified returns,” a spokesperson for the Office of the UN high Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, told a news briefing in Geneva.
“It is also important that asylum remain civilian in nature, and for this reason we are recommending that States exert caution to identify combatants and separate them from the refugee population,” Mr. Edwards continued, adding that the agency’s advisory also stressed the exclusion from refugee status might apply beyond combatants to people involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The situation in the CAR has taken a turn for the worse since last December when rebels belonging to the Séléka faction launched a number of attacks from the north before taking over the capital, Bangui, in late March.
According to UNHCR, targeted killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and the recruitment of children as well as rape, disappearances, and kidnapping are being widely reported throughout the country with the violence in recent months causing up to 173,000 people to be displaced internally and almost 50,000 refugees.
Moreover, the country’s instability has been further fuelled by ethnic tensions in the north, rebel activity and the presence of members of the armed Ugandan group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has caused significant internal displacement.
In a statement issued to the press late Monday, the Security Council also voiced concern over the worsening humanitarian and security situation, as well as the weakening of the Central African Republic’s institutions in the wake of the rebel takeover.
“The members of the Security Council expressed serious concerns at reports of human rights violations and abuses. They emphasized that those responsible for violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law, including those involving violence against civilians, torture, summary executions, sexual and gender-based violence and recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, must be held accountable,” the 15-member Council declared, while calling for “a swift investigation of those cases in order to bring to justice all such perpetrators.”
Council members also expressed continued support for regional efforts spearheaded by the Economic Community of the Central African States (ECCAS) and the African Union to consolidate peace in the CAR and urged all countries concerned to also resume their efforts in addressing the threat posed by the LRA, as soon as possible.