UN Failing to Respond in Central African Republic

Camille Lepage/Polaris


NEW YORK—Despite an agreement among United Nations agencies to mobilize further resources in the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN has until now failed to adequately respond to the grave humanitarian crisis in the country, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today in an open letter to Valerie Amos, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

The UN’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a decision-making forum made up of the main UN humanitarian organizations, has decided to strengthen its response and finally deploy more resources to respond to the crisis in CAR. While this is welcome, it comes too late. The humanitarian situation in CAR has deteriorated massively over recent months, and far more should have been done by now to respond to the ever increasing needs.

“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.

For months, MSF has highlighted the dire humanitarian situation in CAR, and has demonstrated that it is indeed possible to work in the country. It has expanded its humanitarian activities despite challenging security conditions.

United Nations activities have remained insufficient, and those that do exist have often been interrupted, as agencies have pulled their teams from areas of need, sometimes for long periods, the MSF letter noted.

Today, approximately 30,000 people are living at the airport in the capital, Bangui. Despite repeated requests from MSF to UN agencies to provide food, tents and hygiene equipment, no concrete action has taken place. Similarly UN agencies have also not intervened yet in Yaloké and Bouca, where the situation is critical.

During recent fighting in Bossangoa, UN aid officials on security lock-down inside the Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) compound did not even provide assistance to displaced people sheltering inside the same place, 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 teams from Action Against Hunger/Action Contra la Faim (ACF) moved 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,” said Janssens. “UN agencies must now provide an effective response to meet them.’’

MSF has been present in CAR since 1997. With more than 100 expatriate personnel and roughly 1,100 local staff, 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 a displaced persons camps in Bangui. By the end of the year, MSF hopes to initiate activities in the hospitals of Bangassou and Ouango. In total, MSF provides free medical care to nearly 400,000 people through its work in seven hospitals, two medical centers and 40 health posts.

Since December 5, a wave of violence has swept through Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has treated 280 wounded in the Community Hospital. Most have injuries by gunshots or weapons like machetes and knives. More than 60 surgical operations were performed. More than 100 people are still hospitalized.
Camille Lepage/Polaris