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Tens of thousands uprooted by violence in northern Central African Republic

14 September 2007 Increased violence has driven tens of thousands of people from their homes in the north of the Central African Republic (CAR) near the border with Chad, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Some 12,000 people – the entire population of the area between the towns of Markounda and Silambi – have been uprooted, according to UN Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR Toby Lanzer.

Civilians have been caught in fighting between various armed groups, including both State and non-State factions from CAR and neighbouring Chad, in recent months. Late last month, it was reported that the population had escaped the violence into the bush.

The UN expressed concern for the 12,000 living along the Markounda-Silambi axis, approximately 500 kilometres north of the capital Bangui. In July, less than half of that number of people was displaced in the area, but now the entire population of the axis has been forced to flee their homes.

“Conditions are abominable – marked by constant driving rain and night-time temperatures dipping to 15 degrees Celsius,” said Mr. Lanzer, who led a UN mission to the area from 7 to 10 September. “All this comes at the height of the lean season, when people are at the end of their ropes.”

These internally displaced persons (IDPs) have no shelter, safe water, health care or basic necessities such as cooking utensils and soap, and a marked increase in acute respiratory infections has been reported among the displaced.

“We are approaching the harvest in the coming weeks, and people need to get to their fields. If not, hunger will inevitably follow,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, who called for all parties in the country’s north to create an atmosphere conducive to the IDPs returning home.

The UN and its partners’ $83 million appeal to assist those in need is only half funded, and Mr. Holmes, who also serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, is considering allocating Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) resources to the CAR.

Appealing for increased assistance, the UN highlighted the limited capacity of local authorities to protect and help those impacted.

In the past 18 months, nearly 300,000 people have been uprooted from their homes because of conflict within the CAR’s borders, and problems in both Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan threaten to further destabilize the situation in northern CAR.

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