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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reports on Central African Republic’s Humanitarian Needs

Alex Thomson, a Channel 4 News correspondent, reported on the aid needs and efforts to take weapons from suspected fighters.

Journalists and international humanitarian workers who have been extensively covering the conflict in Central African Republic have highlighted the desperate need for aid for the more than half a million people who have been displaced by the fighting.

Alex Thomson, a correspondent for Britain’s Channel 4 news, and Stuart Webb, the cameraman who works with him, this week broadcast a report on the lack of sufficient aid as well as efforts to disarm militias.

Mr. Webb highlighted on his Twitter account the paucity of shelter and medical care.

On Thursday, the European Union said it was sending “urgently needed” medical assistance to the Central African Republic, where the situation was “rapidly deteriorating” with more than 530,000 people internally displaced. More than 2 million people need immediate assistance, it said.

“A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes in the Central African Republic. The entire population is affected - and the number of people displaced in Bangui alone has increased by 130,000 in the space of only a few days. We must get assistance to them now,” Kristalina Georgieva, the E.U. commissioner for international cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said in the statement.

The United Nations shared a message online about the aid needs in the country.

But on Thursday the humanitarian international aid group, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), published a letter criticizing the “unacceptable performance” of the United Nations humanitarian system over the past year in the Central African Republic, saying in part:

During the growing emergency of the last three months, and most recently in Bangui just a few days ago, there has been no evidence of an adequate humanitarian reaction to the needs generated by repeated outbreaks of violence. The only actions undertaken by UN aid officials have been the collection of data related to the fighting and a few assessments confirming the need for an immediate response. Repeated evaluations in the face of glaring needs, and numerous coordination meetings, have not led to any concrete action around the main hotspots.

Two recent examples best illustrate the situation: MSF has repeatedly asked UN agencies to deliver food, tents and soap to the more than 15,000 people displaced in the vicinity of Bangui’s airport, without any reaction; in Bossangoa, UN aid officials on security lock-down inside the FOMAC compound did not even provide assistance to the displaced sheltering inside the same compound, forcing MSF to intervene once more. Following the fighting in Bossangoa, the UN remained on security lock-down for days, abandoning the more than 30,000 displaced persons in the main Bossangoa camps, while MSF and ACF teams move through the city to provide emergency assistance.

Peter Bouckaert, the emergency director for Human Rights Watch, corroborated the account provided in the MSF letter.

Mr. Bouckaert recently left the country, where he has extensively been witnessing the conflict unfold firsthand.

In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times this week, he described details of a meeting there that he had with a rebel colonel, Col. Saleh Zabadi, when he presented him with witnesses’ accounts of killings and with satellite imagery of burned villages.

“I told him that this was direct evidence that could be used against him at the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Mr. Bouckaert wrote.

A photographer, Marcus Bleasdale, who has been working with Mr. Bouckaert, posted on his Twitter account @marcusbleasdale a photograph of Mr. Bouckart during the meeting.

As my colleague Alissa J. Rubin reported, French paratroopers arrived over the weekend to help stem the increasing violence in the country, where the president, Michel Djotodia, took power in a coup last spring backed by the Seleka rebels, who are now among one of the largest militias destabilizing the country.

The Reuters news agency reported on Thursday that the United States has started to airlift Burundian troops there.

Laura Jepson of the International Medical Corps and Tristan Redman of Al Jazeera English described the situation in the capital and at the sites for people who have been internally displaced.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.