Central African Republic: Neglected Crisis & Three Things to Know

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Central African Republic: Neglected Crisis & Three Things to Know

The Central African Republic (CAR) “is now the most dangerous place for humanitarian work” – Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations.

In a nation struggling to address ongoing humanitarian assistance needs, the recent violence racking the country has caused incalculable traumas to the people of CAR. While there was hope for peace in February 2019 with the signing of a peace agreement, violence against civilians has continued. Increased assistance to CAR begins with greater awareness about an often-ignored crisis.

While the needs of the country are plentiful, here are three of the most pressing humanitarian issues.

Food Insecurity

In 2019, over 1.8 million people in CAR were acutely food insecure, and another 1.8 million were only able to attain minimally adequate food consumption for themselves and their families. Security concerns, destruction of property by non-state armed groups, and the temporary sheltering of displaced populations, along with the consequences of a changing climate, have ruined crops and agricultural land, making it difficult, if not impossible, for farmers to produce adequate yields. With 70% of the population of CAR depending on agricultural production for survival, it is unsurprising that the need for food assistance is so widespread.

For the remaining 30% of residents, the now dangerous and often blocked critical supply route from Cameroon keeps millions of Central Africans from consistent access to food. In December 2020, the capital city of Bangui endured a 50-day blockade, halting access to critical supplies and humanitarian assistance. While supply chains were already strained and restricted due to COVID-19, the prices of food items—such as oil, beans, and cassava—have spiked, increasing as much as 50%. For many, this inflation, coupled with an inability to work due to the volatile security situation, makes purchasing these staple items unattainable, and populations reliant on what little food aid makes it into the country. As of March 2021, 2.3 million people were food insecure—amounting to nearly half the population.


CAR is facing a large-scale humanitarian crisis, characterized by a protracted armed conflict and poor human rights conditions which have resulted in the displacement of as many as 1.5 million people, almost a third of the population. The effects of violence, insecurity, and weak rule of law, coupled with poor access to basic services, such as water, education, and healthcare, are undermining resilience and depriving the civilian population of a number of fundamental human rights and humanitarian assistance to which they are entitled.

Since the onset of COVID-19 movement restrictions, humanitarian actors have recorded an almost two-fold increase in the number of cases of violence against women and girls. Reported cases of gender-based violence (GBV) across the country amount to at least one instance perpetrated every hour, though numbers are likely much higher. Women and children make up 80% of those fleeing the violence and are especially vulnerable as they find themselves staying in the bush, communal spaces, and in temporary shelters. In these informal shelter situations, they lack the security of the home and familiar community, exposing them to potentially dangerous influences or violence.

Between COVID-19, the escalation of violence, and frequent displacement, children are suffering greatly. Schools are often a safe and stable space for children, therefore safely reopening and protecting schools is of the utmost importance for the wellbeing of CAR’s children. Additionally, school closures are exposing children to sexual violence and the worst forms of child labor, including conscription by non-state armed groups.

Humanitarian workers have not been spared from violence, despite their protected status under international law. In December 2020 alone, 59 incidents against humanitarian personnel and property were recorded, including one death and the injury of five aid workers. In January 2021, a cross-border convoy including humanitarian aid was attacked and forced to return to Cameroon, injuring three drivers. CAR alone accounted for over 46% of worldwide incidents registered by international non-governmental agencies in the same month. This is a staggering number, considering how underreported and unrecognized the dangerous situation in CAR remains.

This threat against humanitarian workers has forced some organizations to reduce their capacity and move operations out of certain areas despite overwhelming humanitarian needs.

Underfunded Humanitarian Response

The situation in CAR has, for years, been one of the most consistently overlooked and underfunded in the world, forcing humanitarian partners to reduce critical lifesaving activities. In March 2018, for example, the humanitarian response to the crisis was receiving only 2% of the funds needed to meet its dire needs. This year, and this emergency, is unfortunately no different.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the total requirement to fully fund the crisis in CAR in 2021 is $444.8 million, but the country has only received $74.3 million to date—a funding gap of $370.5 million, leaving CAR only 16.7% funded. The continued underfunding of CAR is a shameful reminder of how much more the humanitarian community and donors should be doing.

Without increased funding, resources, services, and humanitarian aid will not come close to meeting the dire humanitarian needs of the population of CAR.

A particular concern with underfunding is the impact on children. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has reported 50,000 malnourished children in need of immediate humanitarian assistance to combat acute malnutrition. However, UNICEF has only received $4,500,868, only 30% of what is required.

Looking forward, an improvement to the humanitarian situation in CAR will likely be tied to increased funding, an improved security situation, and greater respect for human rights. Lacking the necessary resources and safeguards, the humanitarian community will remain unable to adequately respond to the staggering needs across the country. The international community too often neglects CAR.

Long past the time for talk, it is time for action from the international community to support the citizens of CAR.

Get involved as an InterAction Member

At InterAction, we are analyzing the conditions and humanitarian needs and engaging our Members to collectively advocate and educate donors, such as the U.S. Government, about the needs and specific actions they can take to support the people of CAR. If you are an InterAction Member and would like to be added to our new CAR email list or would be interested in taking on a leadership role in InterAction Member-driven advocacy around CAR, please reach out to Aliza Vaccher.

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