Instability in the west has serious consequences for the population trapped in the conflict
The security situation in the western Central African Republic, particularly the Nana-Mambéré and Ouham Pendé Prefectures that border Cameroon, continues to worsen since June. In September, humanitarian activities had to be temporarily suspended again, following a disturbing recurrence of attacks attributed to armed groups, including on the axis Bossemptélé-Yaloké, Bohong-Bocaranga, Bouar-Niem-Yéléwa, Mbartoua-Besson and Makounziwali-Koui.
Following clashes between an armed group and the Central African Armed Forces that left four people wounded and one vehicle burnt, 2,500 people fled the villages of Makounziwali and Santoine into the bush and the surrounding villages. An ambulance came under fire from elements of an armed group and an ambush by armed assailants against a convoy of commercial vehicles between Bossemptélé and Yaloké left one person dead, one injured and two vehicles burnt. This occurred over the course of three days in early September. An attack by an armed group on the town of Bohong, located between Bouar and Bocaranga, in mid-September, resulted in the displacement of the entire population, estimated at 5,000 people, to the neighbouring villages.
The suspension of humanitarian activities as a result of this insecurity had direct consequences for 25,000 vulnerable people who were receiving assistance in Nana-Mambéré and Ouham Pendé. Approximately 2,450 displaced persons are still located around the town of Bocaranga. Despite difficult conditions due to insecurity, humanitarian organizations are making great efforts to assist those trapped in the conflict. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), for example, distributed food to 1,050 displaced people (IDPs) in mid-September. More than 8,000 IDPs were also assisted with food and non-food items in and around Bocaranga by the NGOs Action Contre la Faim (ACF) and Association des femmes rurales de Batangafo pour le développement (AFRBD) between July and September.
The NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC), which supports the Koui hospital in providing free health care to approximately 3,000 vulnerable people, has, since the end of May, been unable to deliver medicines or monitor activities because of insecurity that has forced it to suspend its activities at the hospital. The situation is similar for the health facility in Sanglerime, located 20 km from Koui, whose beneficiaries are estimated at 1,400 vulnerable people. The inhabitants of the region are now forced to buy medicines, but for most of them, this remains unaffordable. In the absence of humanitarian assistance, the sick are not able to access health care.
Prior to the recent clashes, NGOs such as IRC, Mentor, Association des femmes pour la promotion de l’entreprenariat, Convention pour la promotion de droits de l’enfant, Cordaid and AFRBD provided medical services for the local population, supplied malnourished children with therapeutic supplements, distributed emergency food and household items for those in need, and improved access to clean water and hygienic conditions. These actors play a major role in a region where the presence of the State is minimal and basic services are non-existent apart from a few exceptions.
Since the second half of September, the security situation has been gradually normalizing thanks to the patrols of peacekeepers and a gradual return of the population has begun. More than 3,000 families representing 16,000 people have begun to return to the villages of Bohong, Mbotoga, Bode and Santoine. Despite this return, a multisectoral assessment conducted by the NGO ACF showed the extent of the humanitarian needs that remain. The main needs are the supply of medicines for the hospital in Koui and the three health facilities in the region, as well as food for the most vulnerable returnees.
However, security risks on half of the axes in this region remain high for the population and humanitarians, making it impossible for them to move around without restriction.
As if the situation were not difficult enough, the ability of humanitarian actors to reach people in need is further reduced by the current rainy season, which makes physical access to some areas almost impossible due to deteriorating condition of roads and bridges. One of the impassable axes, on which approximately 7,000 people live, leads from Koui to Yéléwa. Road conditions prevent humanitarian partners such as Mentor, which supports two health facilities in the area, and AFRBD, which is expected to distribute food to 1,500 people, from reaching the population in need.