GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency reports escalating violence in the Central African Republic has pushed forcible displacement – mostly of women and children – inside and outside the country to record high levels.
The fiercest fighting and greatest displacement is taking place in the Central African Republic’s northwest region. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in that country reports clashes between two armed groups have forced about 65,000 people, mainly women and children, to flee to the city of Paoua over the last three weeks.
The charity, Doctors Without Borders, says it has treated more than a dozen victims of the fighting in Paoua. One woman, it says, told them the armed men are known to kill adult men they encounter.
As for overall displacement numbers, data at the end of last year show nearly 690.000 people now are internally displaced, 60 percent more than just a year ago. In addition, it finds the number of C.A.R. refugees in neighboring countries is approaching 550,000, 12 percent higher than in 2016.
U.N. refugee spokesman, Adrian Edwards says these are unprecedented numbers, the highest seen since war in the C.A.R. broke out nearly four years ago.
“There is real alarm at the displacement situation, not just in the C.A.R., but in this entire region of Africa. A part of Africa in DRC, which you heard about earlier, in South Sudan and in the C.A.R. You now have approximately 11 million people forcibly displaced. That is a number equivalent to the entire Syria situation,” he said.
Edwards says almost one-half of the Central African Republic’s 4.6 million people will face severe food shortages this year and be in need of humanitarian assistance. Providing this aid, he says, will be extremely difficult given the low-level of funding for U.N. aid operations.
He calls the C.A.R. one of the world’s most forgotten displacement crises. He adds the C.A.R. is measurably the most invisible refugee situation in the world. Last year, he notes, the UNHCR received only 12 percent of the $209 million needed for the C.A.R. refugee aid, barely more than one dollar for every $10 required.