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Health care Humanitarian Aid

New wave of violence in Central African Republic impacts aid efforts

An armed militia has attacked a camp for internally displaced people in the Central African Republic last Thursday. In Alindao, where Cordaid has been providing emergency health care and nutrition services to a target population of 71,763 people since 2016, at least 60 people were killed and 18.000 thousand have fled the area.

The aftermath of the attack in Alindao. Photo: Cordaid

The settlement has been burnt to the ground. Smoldering remains of tents and charred bodies show morbid proof of the humanitarian drama that unfolded in Alindao. Local Cordaid staff that were present during the attack have survived the violence, and despite the risks, essential medical and project staff will stay at their posts to save as many lives as possible.

More than 600.000 displaced people

Incidents like these show how unsafe the CAR still is to this day and the security challenges aid workers face on a daily basis. Since 2013 a bloody civil war has been devastating the CAR and has caused the displacement of more than 600.000 people.

“This is a giant setback, but we cannot abandon the people of the CAR.”

George Rots, Program Manager Humanitarian Aid

“This vicious cycle of repeated attacks against civilians is unacceptable”, sounds the official statement of Najat Rochdi, Humanitarian Coördinator of the United Nations in the CAR. “The gains made by the humanitarian community in providing life-saving assistance and reducing vulnerabilities are undermined. Civilians want safety, peace and a future.”

“This news is highly disappointing”, says George Rots, Program Manager Humanitarian Aid at Cordaid’s headquarters in The Hague. In the past year, Rots visited the CAR multiple times and started to become carefully optimistic about the progress the country seemed to be making. “Some regions were becoming more stable and this allowed aid organizations to do their work better. This attack shows us that civilians in the CAR are still far from being safe.”

One of the most insecure countries in the world

Unfortunately, also for aid workers, the CAR remains one of the most insecure countries in the world. Between April and June this year alone, there were 118 incidents of violence targeted towards aid workers. However, this does not seem to stop many of them from providing support to the people who need it most.

Many displaced people have sought refuge in Alindao’s hospital, where Cordaid executes a health program. There Cordaid workers are doing everything in their power to treat as many victims of the attack as possible. With funding mainly from the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank PASS program, Cordaid supports the Alindao district hospital and 5 clinics in Basse Kotto.

“These new attacks will also provoke retaliation. This has a very negative impact on our work.”

Jameson Gadzirai, Director Programs in the CAR

“The area is relatively safe again and we are resuming our activities as much as we can”, says Jameson Gadzirai, Director Programs at the Cordaid office in the capital Bangui.

Disturbing trend

Gadzirai believes the latest attacks are part of a disturbing trend taking place in the CAR. A few weeks ago, displaced people were also targeted in another part of the country. “These new attacks will also provoke retaliation. This has a very negative impact on our work. We are forced to scale up our activities with limited resources. This means we need to help more people under even more difficult circumstances. In this case, our staff has also been victimized. Some of them have lost all their possessions and suffer from traumatic stress.”

Cordaid supports people in the CAR with shelter, water and sanitation, food security, education and healthcare. Especially in the CAR, Cordaid has successfully showcased that integrating different ways of relief can help give people perspective in one of the world’s poorest nations.

Long-term efforts

“We need to stay positive”, says George Rots. “This is a giant setback, but we cannot abandon the people of the CAR. There is a lot of insecurity in the region of Alindao, but that makes the presence of aid workers all the more necessary. That is where people need our support the most. Providing aid in the CAR is a matter of long-term efforts.”