|"Our fundamental priority is to make sure that everyone in need can access humanitarian aid and protection. But first, we must ensure that all armed actors respect our independence, neutrality and safety in order to maintain our activities and help population who are suffering the most."|
(Washington, D.C.) May 20, 2014 — Jesuit Refugee Service welcomes the statement by 26 NGOs in the Central African Republic reaffirming their commitment to the people there, and we echo their call for armed actors to respect humanitarian access. JRS currently supports the emergency education program established by UNICEF. These projects serve as temporary primary and secondary schools for those children who cannot return to their schools because of insecurity.
Twenty-six international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) express their deep concern over violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), condemn recent attacks against humanitarians and reaffirm their commitment to helping civilians in need. Despite an environment that is becoming increasingly dangerous for aid workers, NGOs are resolute in providing live-saving support and call upon all armed actors in CAR to respect the safety of humanitarian staff, material and activities; and to ensure all communities have unhindered access to assistance.
National and international NGO staff are working to reduce the scale of suffering in CAR by providing assistance to nearly 2.5 million people, more than 50% of the population, which live in dire circumstance throughout the country. Aid workers conduct essential activities, including: provide medical services, distribute emergency shelter, improve access to water and sanitation facilities, treat malnutrition, support livelihood activities, give food assistance, equip schools for children and help victims of violence. NGOs collaborate closely with local communities to make sure assistance addresses concerns and is equitable.
NGOs operating in CAR are guided by fundamental principles to ensure that everyone in need can reach humanitarian assistance:
• Humanity: NGOs aim to prevent or alleviate human suffering.
• Neutrality: NGOs do not side with any of the parties to conflict in CAR, nor advance political or religious objectives.
• Impartiality: NGOs provide assistance on the basis of need alone and without any discrimination.
• Independence: NGOs are autonomous and operate independently from political or military actors.
But violence and threats against humanitarians jeopardize assistance and risks reducing access to vulnerable populations, who depend on NGOs for their basic needs. Within the past month alone, humanitarians have experienced serious incidents, for example: an attack on an NGO-supported hospital and killing of 16 civilians, including three aid workers; an attack on a humanitarian convoy, the looting of material and killing of three aid workers; an attack against a convoy transporting IDPs and humanitarians, killing two IDPs and wounding six; and the abduction and killing of two aid workers.
"Humanitarians have experienced deadly incidents and attacks," said a NGO representative. "Our fundamental priority is to make sure that everyone in need can access humanitarian aid and protection. But first, we must ensure that all armed actors respect our independence, neutrality and safety in order to maintain our activities and help population who are suffering the most."
NGOs aim to continue providing living-saving assistance, increase the aid given to the people of CAR, and help prepare a foundation for the country’s full recovery. However, the safety of humanitarian staff must be ensured and all communities in need must have unhindered access to aid.