Bossangoa: Multiple challenges to overcome
More than 14,000 people have been displaced since 21 February in Bossangoa, in the north-west of the country, fearing an offensive by the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and their allies. Three days later, they took over the city from the armed group Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC). Most of the displaced people, mainly settled within the grounds of the Catholic parish, started returning home and in the bush last week in a worrying security situation. This explains why the level of returns and the residents’ perspectives vary from one location to another, while more than 350 displaced people still settled within the hospital compound, according to the findings of a multisectoral assessment mission conducted on 10 March in the city by humanitarians. While in some of the return areas people got back to their usual business and spend the night in their homes, others have to spend the night in the bush, fearing for their security. Food prices have also increased from 25 to 50%, for a population barely returning home. Pupils resumed school in the few classes that were occupied by the displaced people in the catholic parish, but other schools in the town still closed. In order to better understand the situation, humanitarian workers are also planning to visit the Bossangoa-Bouca, Bossangoa-Bangui, Bossangoa-Benzembé and Bossangoa-Nana Bakassa axes.
Humanitarian response faced with access constraints
Those affected most by the recent outbreak of violence in the country are civilians. Access constraints make it difficult for humanitarian organizations to respond adequately to people’s needs. In less than two months, nearly a dozen lootings and robberies attributed to armed groups have targeted humanitarian actors in Bossangoa, four of them in a single week at the end of February. As aresult, most humanitarian organizations have relocated their employees or reduced their presence, thus affecting their response capacity significantly. Despite these difficult conditions, the NGO Médecins sans frontières (MSF) built 60 emergency latrines and showers, and set up a water tank that provides the IDPs with 60 m3 per day. Following the returns, the NGO is removing these facilities and desinfecting the area, with the exception of the water tank. The NGO also provides medical care for children and youth at the regional hospital, and has received nutritional supplies from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the care of malnourished children. The CODIS health center, near the Evêché IDP site, received medicines from UNICEF. The NGO CARITAS carries out protection monitoring and referral activities for cases requiring special attention. While mobilizing the necessary resources, the partners involved in food security are identifying the best way to assist the IDPs, considering particularly their protection.
Concerns beyond the city
While there is hope for a lull in Bossangoa town, the situation on the surrounding axes remains worrisome, especially north of Bossembélé. Several abuses of civilians by armed elements have been reported, including houses that were set on fire along the road leading from Bossembelé to Bossangoa. Similarly, forced displacement of villagers living in the surroundings of Bossangoa have been reported; their numbers remain to be assessed when access to the region becomes possible. Due to prevailing insecurity, humanitarian actors have not yet been able to reach this area, evaluate humanitarian needs and provide the necessary response.