Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world that is already confronted by one of the worst humanitarian crises. On top of everything else, the country now faces the threat of COVID-19. Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are working to ensure people with disabilities and vulnerable individuals who are at risk of exclusion are included in the crisis response.
“CAR is already experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis,” explains Perrine Benoist, Humanity & Inclusion’s operations officer in CAR. “The country has been racked by civil war for seven years. More than a quarter of the population was displaced by violence in 2013. The east of the country is currently the worst affected. Various highly active armed groups continue to hold sway. This regularly displaces people, which could worsen the pandemic.”
“The civil war is gradually chipping away at local support networks. This is really worrying because many people are highly vulnerable to the new humanitarian crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The people assisted by our teams—displaced, older or isolated people, people with disabilities or individuals with chronic illnesses, some of whom do not speak the country’s majority languages, and the poorest people who live in dire conditions—are among the most vulnerable.”
Against this background, our teams are working to improve awareness messages and the need for community involvement. We’re working harder than ever to ensure the most vulnerable are prepared and know how to protect themselves. We’re also providing support to local actors, authorities and organizations, to help build their capacity to monitor and prevent infections. This is done in coordination with the national crisis unit.
Humanitarian assistance for all
“During a conflict or mass displacement, people with disabilities are often left behind and forgotten in needs assessments or aid planning. The threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in CAR, added to the existing humanitarian crisis, means they face even more obstacles than usual. Long distances, an environment that makes travel difficult and poor access to information can, for example, prevent them from accessing food distribution points or hygiene kits,” Benoist adds.
In a situation made worse by COVID-19, people with disabilities, particularly the most dependent who have a sensory or intellectual impairment or who require regular care, a lack of information, difficulties accessing services and added stigma, can lead to communities to stop taking care of them. This can prove fatal. A study by Humanity & Inclusion in CAR revealed that 43% of people with disabilities face discrimination when accessing care and social services and humanitarian aid.
However, people with disabilities are not the only ones to face this problem. Many other groups risk exclusion, including older people and displaced people, many of them destitute, and the chronically ill. As a result, we work at multiple levels, taking a highly integrated approach to raise the awareness of other actors to help ensure the most vulnerable individuals are systematically included in all assistance services, including emergency response.
Inclusive messages and actions
Humanity & Inclusion’s COVID-19 awareness-raising and prevention actions are designed to ensure that no one is left behind. We adapt our messages to each vulnerable group—people over the age of 60, members of Organizations for People with Disabilities (OPDs or DPOs)—so they pass on these messages to their own networks in turn. HI visits people’s homes to raise awareness of hygiene and basic personal precautionary measures that help prevent the spread of the virus. They also train community representatives, members of young people’s organizations, women and people with disabilities to teach basic precautionary measures and best practices to members of their networks.
Our logistics teams transport humanitarian aid at no cost and uses this opportunity to make road haulers aware of basic precautionary measures as they frequently pick up supplies in Cameroon—a country which is greatly affected by the virus.
Humanity & Inclusion works to protect the most vulnerable
As of May 27, we count 171 new projects that aim to protect our beneficiaries and staff from the virus, and to help them during their countries' lock downs. As COVID-19 takes aim at our planet's most vulnerable neighbors, we're ensuring that people with disabilities, people with injuries from conflict, children, women, and especially older people have the information--and even the soap--to stay healthy. Learn more about our COVID-19 response.
In 2017, Humanity & Inclusion transported 8,590 tons of goods to some of the most isolated corners of Central African Republic (CAR), a country that has been devastated by decades of violence and instability.
On the Human Development Index, CAR ranks at the bottom. Nowhere else in the world are the challenges to life and dignity so prevalent. Sixty-seven percent of the mainly rural population lives on less than a dollar a day and just 30% have access to clean water. An armed insurgency that began in 2012 has resulted in the severe deterioration of the country’s infrastructure.
Delivering humanitarian assistance such as food and medicine is a major logistical challenge, particularly as most people live in remote areas. Roads are poorly maintained, communication networks are unreliable, and many areas are too dangerous to travel. This means that large areas of the country are only accessible by air.
Our teams have taken on a coordination role in the county in order to improve logistics for all humanitarian associations trying to reach those in need. One of the first priorities is to restore airfields and landing strips in remote areas so that humanitarian flights can land safely. We work with local communities to manage repairs and maintenance, such as filling potholes and clearing vegetation.
Our logistics team coordinates deliveries by air, pooling together the goods to be sent in order to improve efficiency. HI manages the schedules, security checks, and loading of humanitarian cargo planes from Bangui M’Poko airport and coordinates safe arrival.
Since January 2016, Handicap International has worked to ensure that the most vulnerable people in Central African Republic receive the life-saving, life-enabling aid they need after three years of acute crisis. In a country where disease is rife, infrastructure is lacking, and half the population (2.3 million people) is in “dire need of assistance,” Handicap International’s logistics expertise fills a crucial gap, allowing humanitarian organizations to deliver aid the extra mile, despite sometimes harrowing road conditions. Cyril Chérie, Handicap International’s logistics project manager in Bangui, recently took time to tell us more.Read more