As the refugee situation in the Central African Republic continues to worsen, Catholic Relief Services says it is working to help displaced persons and to encourage a peaceful resolution to the violence.
“The humanitarian consequences have been horrendous,” Helen Blakesley, Catholic Relief Services' regional information officer for West and Central Africa, said Dec. 7.
“The country was already extremely poor, but with the violence now many hundreds have died, thousands have been injured. Many thousands have fled their homes in fear of their lives and have had to camp out in makeshift shelters in cramped unsanitary conditions,” she said in a report for the U.S.-based relief agency.
The Central African Republic was torn by war from 2004 to 2007. Violence again broke out in December 2012, followed by a March 2013 coup.
An estimated 935,000 people have been displaced, including half the population of the national capital of Bangui, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports. Nearly 60 percent of the displaced are children. Some of the displaced are hiding in the bush.
French and African Union troops have tried to restore order. Reuters reports that the interim president Michel Djotodia, who took power in the coup, is planning to step down.
Amid the violence, relief agencies are working to help refugees. “Catholic Relief Services has stood with people in need,” Blakesley said.
She said the agency has distributed food vouchers and is supporting religious leaders “to spread the message of reconciliation.” It is also supporting thousands of displaced people by working with its partners in Caritas Internationalis, a global network of Catholic relief agencies.
The Central African Republic is among the world's poorest countries. The U.N. has said the country is in danger of becoming a failed state.
Christian and Muslim Central Africans have had a history of peaceful relations, but the latest conflict has caused some religious divisions.
Blakesley voiced hope that peace can be restored. “The Muslims and Christians have been pulled into this escalating situation beyond their control, and they really need our help,” she said.