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Emergency response focused on protection and hygiene

Central African Republic, January 9, 2014

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  • Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (shown in August 2012), has been the epicenter of increasingly sectarian conflict since early December. Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps
  • Over 500,000 people in Bangui have fled their homes to escape looting and targeted attacks on civilians, seeking safety in numbers at more than 50 makeshift camps in public spaces. Nearly one million people are displaced throughout the country. Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is actively helping families affected by the deepening crisis devastating the Central African Republic. For the past month, we've focused our emergency response on strategic towns in both the east and west of the country, along with the capital of Bangui, where violence has rapidly escalated since early December.

Increasingly sectarian violence targets civilians

It's been almost a year since the Seleka rebel coalition staged an armed coup that threw the country into chaos. Nearly one million people are now displaced and the U.N. estimates that 2.3 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance — over half of the country’s population.

Historically CAR’s different religious groups have peacefully co-existed, but now sectarian conflict is tearing the country apart, with the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels clashing with Christian militias. Widespread fear and suffering prevail in increasingly polarized communities.

In Bangui, over 500,000 people have fled their homes to escape looting and targeted attacks on civilians. They are seeking refuge and safety in numbers at public spaces — more than 50 makeshift camps have sprung up at the airport, schools and churches.

Preventing disease, protecting women and children in teeming camps

Our teams reoriented existing program activities to immediately address urgent needs. Protection staff are operating mobile services, visiting sites to help prevent gender-based violence and assist women and children who have been attacked. And educators we've trained are busy raising awareness about hygiene and supporting children at safe spaces in the overcrowded camps.

Outside of Bangui, the situation is tense and there are serious risks that such horrific violence will become more widespread. International security forces have increased their patrols, but armed groups continue to launch attacks.

The lack of clear governance and rule of law has resulted in the near complete breakdown of basic services and over one million people are at risk of serious hunger.

In outlying areas like Bouar to the west, we are continuing work to dig wells, build latrines and distribute supplies for families displaced by the chronic insecurity. Elsewhere, our counseling centers are open to provide support and legal services for victims of violence.

“There is still time to prevent further violence and reverse the CAR’s spiral into chaos, but the world must take swift and resolute action,” states Simon O’Connell, Mercy Corps’ Regional Program Director for West and Central Africa.

The U.N. has called CAR the most neglected crisis in the world. Mercy Corps has been working here — one of the poorest countries in the world — since 2007, addressing the growing needs of people affected by both conflict and poverty. In the midst of this current crisis, we are committed to protecting women and children and helping communities get the basic services they need to survive.

How you can help

Your support allows our teams to respond as quickly as possible during conflict like this in CAR. You can help us protect more women and children from violence, secure clean water, and help families rebuild stronger here and around the world. Donate today ▸