People's Stories Peace

Increased violence against civilians threatens the provision of aid and puts many lives at risk
by OCHA, UN News, MSF, agencies
Central African Republic (CAR)
11 Aug 2017
The following is a press release signed by 35 International Non Government Organisations (INGO) working in the Central African Republic - Report from Concern Worldwide, Catholic Relief Services, Danish Refugee Council, Welthungerhilfe, COOPI - Cooperazione Internazionale, DanChurchAid, ACTED, Triangle Génération Humanitaire, Norwegian Refugee Council, Lutheran World Federation, INTERSOS, Tearfund, MENTOR Initiative, Mercy Corps, Cordaid, Handicap International, Action Contre la Faim France, Action Against Hunger USA, Médecins du Monde, Solidarités International, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, International Medical Corps, Invisible Children, Plan, Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, World Vision, ACT Alliance, ALIMA, Finn Church Aid, Première Urgence Internationale, International NGO Safety Organisation, African Humanitarian Agency / Agence Africaine Humanitaire
Bangui, August 11th 2017
Following the escalation of violence in many parts of the country, NGOs signatories, members of the INGO Coordination Committee (CCO) in the Central African Republic (CAR) call for an increased protection of civilians and an improved humanitarian access to allow the affected population access to vital aid.
As NGOs working across CAR, we witness the impact of violence on the civilian population on a daily basis:
An increased number of civilians, including humanitarian actors, are being attacked or are losing their lives: while there are wounded civilians in one out of 2 security incidents, almost one out of 5 is lethal
Women and children are being affected the most given the spread of sexual exploitation and abuse and the recruitment of children by armed groups
More than 20% of the population have fled their homes: The number of internally displaced persons reached 600,000 in July - the highest it’s been since March 2014, with an increase of 215,000 people in the last six months. An additional 438.724 people live as refugees in neighbouring countries (Source: OCHA/UNHCR).
“The INGO community in CAR is deeply concerned by this very worrying situation. The civilian population are the ones who bear the brunt of violence the most as it impacts on their safety and livelihoods.’ says Mr. Mohammed Chikhaoui, the Chair of the CCO.
As civilians ourselves, we also face numerous incidents and attacks. For the third consecutive year, CAR is being named the most dangerous country in the world for humanitarian personnel in the world in terms of number of incidents they face, with 181 incidents being recorded since the beginning of this year.
These attacks impact on our capacity to deliver life-saving assistance and much needed services to the affected population. And given that half of the population is dependent on humanitarian aid, it is worrisome that the humanitarian organizations working to provide emergency relief to the most vulnerable can no longer do so due to the continuous violence towards civilians, them included.
This reduction in the humanitarian space - both in terms of the humanitarian actors’ capacities to reach the affected population and the population’s ability to access basic services and life-saving assistance – could rapidly lead to a new humanitarian catastrophe in the Central African Republic.
Therefore, the INGOs signatories to this statement: - first and foremost, remind all parties of their responsibility to protect civilians’ lives and livelihoods;
Strongly urge all parties to refrain from targeting civilians, and perpetrating or allowing the use of force, - abuse of power or any action that violates human rights in the CAR;
Call on armed actors to agree on an immediate cease fire and to engage in a political dialogue to bring about a peaceful solution to the current crisis;
Call on all parties to guarantee the safe access of civilians to life-saving and much needed services, and the safe access of the humanitarian actors to all vulnerable groups as stipulated under international humanitarian law.
10 Aug 2017
Central African Republic: 10,000 people seek Safety in Batangafo Hospital after Camp is Looted and Burned - Médecins Sans Frontières
Approximately 10,000 people have taken shelter on the grounds of Batangafo hospital in Central African Republic (CAR), more than 10 days after violence broke out between rival groups, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Thursday.
With clashes taking place between members of the former Seleka coalition and so called self-defense groups, the town of Batangafo in the country’s north has once again plunged into chaos. This latest wave of violence resulted in at least 24 dead and 17 wounded in fighting on July 29 and August 1. A large part of the city’s camp for displaced people was looted and burned, forcing people to seek shelter elsewhere. Facilities for several aid organizations, including MSF, have been robbed.
“The people taking refuge in the hospital, and in other locations around Batangafo, are still unable to rebuild their shelters in the camp from which they were forced to flee,” said MSF project coordinator Carlos Francisco.
“As an immediate way to respond to the needs, we are strengthening the water supply system on the hospital grounds as well as providing latrines and improving hygiene. But people must be allowed to rebuild their homes as soon as possible and return to the camp safely.”
Most people sheltering in Batangafo hospital leave the grounds during the day and return to sleep there at night. But in CAR, not even hospitals are places of safety. In recent weeks, armed groups have forcibly entered hospitals in both Bangassou and Zemio. In incidents condemned by MSF, armed men in Bangassou kidnapped two patients, who were later found dead. In Zemio, armed men shot and killed a child in its mother’s arms last month.
“Much of the general population is in a state of complete helplessness,” said Francisco. “Imagine what the situation must be like when people think that the only safe option left to them is a hospital, knowing that not even hospitals are safe.”
Hospital services were interrupted by the recent fighting, with general consultations being put on hold and extra support provided to the emergency room, but have since been re-established. Some of the wounded were treated in Batangafo hospital and included combatants from both groups, said MSF. The atmosphere in Batangafo remains tense, despite the fact that the leaders of the rival groups claim to have reached an agreement to prevent a resurgence in the conflict.
Since last November, the conflict in CAR—which started in 2013—has worsened. In recent months, more than 180,000 people have fled their homes. Approximately twenty percent of the population is displaced—400,000 have been displaced inside CAR and 500,000 have fled to neighboring countries, out of a total estimated population of just over 4.5 million people.
* MSF has worked in CAR since 1996 and currently has more than 2,400 Central African staff and 230 international staff working in the country.
May 2017
Urgent action needed to protect children in ‘forgotten crisis’ in Central African Republic
Without increased support, the lives and futures of more than 1 million children in the Central African Republic are under threat, UNICEF said today.
While the country’s fragile recovery continues, sporadic violence and instability remains an issue, with an estimated 890,000 people remain displaced and more than 2.2 million people – half of them children – in need of humanitarian assistance.
“We cannot allow the Central African Republic to become a forgotten crisis,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF Representative in the Central African Republic. “The reality is that without sufficient support we will not be able to provide the vital services that are needed to keep children healthy, safe and in school.”
Today, over 425,000 people remain displaced inside the country while 463,000 have sought refuge in Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Congo – with Cameroon hosting more than half of these refugees. It is estimated that around half of those displaced are children.
The situation for children inside the country remains calamitous as violence and widespread displacement have made children especially vulnerable to health risks, exploitation and abuse. Nearly half of children under five (41%) suffer from chronic malnutrition that jeopardizes their physical and intellectual development; 1 in 7 children will die before they reach their fifth birthday and a third of children are out of school.

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Five times more civilians die in city offensives, new report finds
by International Committee of the Red Cross, agencies
14 June 2017
Iraq, Syria and Yemen: Five times more civilians die in city offensives, new report finds.
A new ICRC report launched today reveals five times more civilians die in offensives carried out in cities than in other battles.
The report, called ''I Saw My City Die'', also found that between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the main focus countries of the report.
"Over the past three years, our research shows that wars in cities accounted for a shocking 70% of all civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria", said the ICRC''s Regional Director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini.
"This illustrates just how deadly these battles have become. This is all the more alarming as new offensives get underway in cities like Raqqa in Syria, or intensify in Mosul, Iraq. A new scale of urban suffering is emerging, where no one and nothing is spared by the violence."
The research findings are based on preliminary analysis of battle trends and data over the past three years in Iraq and Syria. The report includes testimony from residents in Syria''s Aleppo, Iraq''s Mosul and Yemen''s Taiz, and expert analysis. It vividly illustrates the effects of siege warfare, the use of explosive weapons and the extensive damage caused to key infrastructure.
The conflicts in these countries have resulted in internal displacement and migration levels unprecedented since WWII. More than 17 million Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis have fled their homes.
And these battles risk becoming even more protracted if real political solutions are not found soon. Wars in cities are so devastating because of the way in which they are being fought.
Armed parties are failing to distinguish between military objectives and civilian infrastructure – or worse, they are using or directly targeting them.
"It''s beholden on those with power to act. Warring sides must realise the full impact the fighting has on the people they ultimately hope to govern. Will the victors be able to keep the peace if people feel they have respected neither the law nor the basic humanity of local citizens? The consequences of this violence will resonate for generations and there is the very real danger that cities experiencing these conflicts will simply act as incubators for further violence in the future", said Mr Mardini.
"States supporting parties to conflict must also do their utmost to restrain their allies and ensure better respect for international humanitarian law. And once the guns fall silent, it is local people and organisations which must play a full part in the rebuilding of the communities."
The report also considers Lebanon''s 15-year civil war and examines the lessons Beirut can offer to help ensure the recovery of urban communities after such overwhelming and protracted violence.
ICRC Director General Yves Daccord says there are 80 conflicts currently raging in some 40 countries. The ICRC estimates that fifty million people currently bear the brunt of war in cities around the world.
Mr. Daccord is currently seeking more support to assist those affected. "With adequate funding will be able to better assist civilians who fled war zones, and those who chose to stay... If we want them to be able to survive in Syria and Yemen, we need to do humanitarian actions," he said.
"But also at the same time, try to make sure that water, sanitation systems, health system, can continue to function.
"When you are trying to reconstruct, it''s not just about reconstructing building or infrastructure. It''s about reconstructing society, and really thinking about how the social fabric of a society is living."
"We need to learn from the past, and we see that we are dealing with really protracted crises which impact people over time," he said.
Tens of thousands killed by war
The ICRC report found the most deadly conflicts were in the Middle East, with nearly half of all deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
The Syrian war has claimed more than 400,000 lives in seven years, and civilians who stayed said they were reliving the trauma on a daily basis.
In two years Yemen''s civil war has caused at least 10,000 civilian deaths, and like Syria and Yemen, many Iraqi cities have been bombed repeatedly.
At the general hospital in Mosul in Iraq, just a kilometre from the frontline of the conflict Doctor Julia Schurch said: "All the traumas we see, more than 90 per cent, are directly war wounded traumas - gunshots and shell injuries, which means from blasts," she said. "Here it is really a very high number of war wounded cases, from very small superficial lesions from flying elements to deadly injuries."
With a humanitarian crisis unprecedented since the Second World War, the Red Cross said international assistance remained imperative.
The report makes 10 key recommendations to all parties that are either directly or indirectly involved in these conflicts; all of which are intended to limit the impact of urban warfare by reducing suffering and addressing the urgent needs of civilians.
The recommendations urge strict adherence to international humanitarian law which include among others the cessation of sieges as tactics of war, protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure and allowing access to humanitarian aid.
* Access the ICRC report via the link below.

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