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Off the map – reaching the hardest to reach in Central African Republic

© UNICEF/CAR/2014/Logan
Memouna and her baby girl Ramatu at the displacement site in Berberati, Central African Republic.

By Madeleine Logan

Central African Republic, February 2015 - Memouna was working as a seamstress and raising her five children when the crisis in the Central African Republic tore apart her family.

Alongside her husband, Memouna fled her home in Berberati in western CAR in January last year when violence against the Muslim community reached a peak. She heard the local Catholic Bishop’s house was a safe haven and her family sought shelter there, alongside 300 other people.

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Memouna’s children have not been to school since. It is not safe to leave the site to shop for food or access healthcare – so her family relies on external assistance to fill their most basic needs.

Under the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) coordinated by UNICEF and PU-AMI in south-western CAR, two non-food item distributions have been held at the displacement site where Memouna lives.

Displaced families have been given Emergency Kits with mats, blankets, tarpaulins, jerry cans, buckets, soap, and clothes for babies and children. The RRM also constructed toilets and showers.

Quick response for the hardest to reach

The Rapid Response Mechanism aims to respond within 15 days of being alerted about an outbreak of violence or displacement.

Firstly, rapid response teams carry out assessments that measure families’ vulnerability in health, food security, water, sanitation and access to household essentials like buckets, mats and soap. The teams target their response based on the findings of these assessments, and quickly organise distributions, using supplies and funding they have received in advance.

In 2014, the RRM project received $1.3 million from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) , which helped it to scale up its work in the hardest to reach parts of CAR.

Support for people displaced

The majority of RRM distributions happen in the hardest-to-reach communities in CAR which most humanitarian organisations can’t access. Places like Irma-Baron – a few hours’ drive over potholed roads from Berberati.

The village had been destroyed by conflict, with 112 houses burned and nine people killed in an attack by ex-Seleka rebles in February last year. The 850 members of the community had fled to the bush. Six months later PU-AMI found 65 people who had returned to the rubble and were trying to re-establish their lives.

PU-AMI organized a distribution for both the people who had returned and those who were still in the bush – whom they found with the support of community leaders. They distributed nearly 120 emergency kits to families including plastic mats, blankets, buckets, soap, jerry cans, kitchen sets and children and baby clothes.

The RRM works to reach the most marginalised and the most disadvantaged, while they struggle with the impact of violence and try to re-build.
As Memouna said: “We’re waiting here until peace returns and we can go home. We are Central African and we want to stay here.”

The Rapid Response Mechanism co-ordinates NGO partners Action Against Hunger, ACTED, Danish Refugee Council, PU-AMI and Solidarités International. 



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