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Unicef urges action to prevent CAR 'catastrophe'

05 February 2014, 08:57

New York - The head of the UN children's agency urged the international community Tuesday 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 $60m 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 March 2013 coup. More than 1 000 people have been killed and nearly one million forced from their homes since December in violence pitting Christians and Muslims, militias and civilians. The violence has increasingly targeted civilians of Muslim origin.

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.

The UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said WFP 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 WFP food haven't crossed the border from Cameroon because of insecurity. The African force sent armed escorts to the border who were expected to arrive Tuesday, Nesirky said.

Spiralling violence

Humanitarian officials said they only have 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 Tuesday 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.

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 $33.7m to the African Union-led force in the Central African Republic.

EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the EU has pledged around €200m ($269.6m) 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.

Pielbags said the EU is preparing an additional package to help restore infrastructure that has been looted as soon as the security situation improves. He said he also announced in Addis that the EU will provide €20m to support the political process leading to credible, free and fair elections as soon as the situation allows.

- AP


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