The head of the United Nations (UN) children’s agency has urged the international community to do everything it can to prevent the “human tragedy” in Central African Republic from turning into “a human catastrophe”.
Anthony Lake made the appeal as the UN World Food Programme announced there are only food supplies for a week available in the capital Bangui, and the UN humanitarian office said it has received only $60 million (£37m) of the $551m it appealed for to help hundreds of thousands in need in the country.
Central African Republic has been in chaos since a coup in March 2013. More than 1,000 people have been killed and nearly a million forced from their homes since December, in violence pitting Christians and Muslims, militias and civilians against each other. The violence has increasingly targeted civilians of Muslim origin.
Mr Lake, who visited the country in January, said Muslims facing “outrageous attacks” are being forced to move to the north and east “which is tragic for them and dangerous for the future of their country”.
The Unicef executive director also said children “are under assault and being killed in brutal, senseless communal violence, and there is an almost total absence of protection” for them.
The insecurity and lack of funds are having an impact on several fronts.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the food programme is preparing to airlift food from Douala in Cameroon, which is five times more expensive than road transport, because of the insecurity.
He said 43 trucks carrying food have not crossed the border from Cameroon. A pan-African force sent armed escorts to the border who were expected to arrive this week, Mr Nesirky said.
Humanitarian officials said there is only enough money for a few more flights to take migrants out of the Central African Republic.
Jan de Wilde, the officer in charge of the International Organisation for Migration in Central African Republic, said that flights will be discontinued unless funding improves.
The organisation said it has helped nearly 5,000 people escape the country’s spiralling violence, repatriating foreigners to Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Sudan, Niger and Senegal. Many fleeing have lived in the country for years and have few ties in their home countries.
Mr Lake urged countries that pledged $300m for the country in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday to come up with the money quickly.
In Addis Ababa, the European Union pledged an additional €25m (£20.5m) to the African Union-led force in the Central African Republic.
EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the EU has pledged around €200m since the onset of the crisis in the Central African Republic to support the African forces to restore security, for humanitarian aid, and to reopen schools.
He said he also announced in Addis Ababa that the EU will provide €20m to support the political process leading to credible, free and fair elections.