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UN must urgently and radically change its humanitarian response

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Brussels, 12 Dec 2013 – As UN humanitarian organisations agree to further mobilise resources in response to the humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic (CAR), MSF has released an open letter addressed to Valérie Amos, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, expressing that this decision has to be urgently translated in reality.

Community Hospital in Bangui
MSF workers care for patients at Bangui's Community Hospital.
Samuel Hanryon/MSF

It urges that until now, UN organisations have failed to deliver an adequate response to the gravity and the scale of humanitarian needs on the ground. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a decision making forum involving the main UN humanitarian organisations, has decided to strengthen its humanitarian response in CAR, meaning it will deploy more resources to respond to the crisis.

This is welcome, but it comes too late. As the humanitarian situation has deteriorated massively in the country over the last months, far more should have been done by now. “This late decision must have a real impact and initiate radical and immediate change to the way UN humanitarian agencies respond to the crisis,” said Bart Janssens, MSF Director of Operations.

UN activities have been insufficient, and those that do exist have often been interrupted, as agencies have pulled their teams out from areas of need, sometimes for long periods.

Today, approximately 30,000 people are living at Bangui airport. Despite repeated requests from MSF to UN agencies to provide food, tents and hygiene equipment. Yet no concrete response has come.

Despite repeated requests, UN agencies have also not intervened yet in Yaloké and Bouca, where the situation is critical.

Two recent examples best illustrate the situation: MSF has repeatedly asked UN agencies to deliver food, tents and soap to the more than 15,000 people displaced in the vicinity of Bangui’s airport, without any reaction; in Bossangoa, UN aid officials on security lock-down inside the FOMAC compound did not even provide assistance to the displaced sheltering inside the same compound, forcing MSF to intervene once more. Following the fighting in Bossangoa, the UN remained on security lock-down for days, abandoning the more than 30,000 displaced persons in the main Bossangoa camps, while MSF and ACF teams move through the city to provide emergency assistance.

“Despite the best efforts of MSF and the few NGOs operating in the field, the needs remain extremely high. UN agencies must now provide an effective response to meet them,’’ continued Janssens.

For months MSF has been highlighting the dire humanitarian situation in CAR. MSF has been able to demonstrate that it is possible to work and has even expanded its humanitarian activities in the country despite the difficult security conditions.

Despite the best efforts of MSF and the few NGOs operating in the field, the needs remain extremely high. UN agencies must now provide an effective response to meet them Bart Janssens

MSF has been present in CAR since 1997. MSF is currently managing seven regular projects (in Batangafo, Boguila, Carnot, Kabo, Ndéle, Paoua and Zémio) and four emergency projects (in Bangui, Bossangoa, Bouca and Bria). In addition, a mobile emergency team is covering the areas of Bouar, Yaloké and the displaced camps of Bangui. By the end of the year, MSF hopes to start activities in the hospitals of Bangassou and Ouango. In total, it provides free medical care to nearly 400,000 people; through its work in 7 hospitals, two medical centres and 40 health posts; and has more than 100 expatriate personnel and about 1,100 local staff in its teams.

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Central African Republic
Open Letter 12 December 2013