UNHCR says 100,000 people are still internally displaced while others have fled to neighboring countries.
More than 200,000 people have been displaced by election-related violence in the Central African Republic over the past two months, according to the UN, about half of whom have fled to neighboring countries.
The UN refugee agency said on Friday 100,000 people were still internally displaced in CAR, while 92,000 refugees crossed the river border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 13,240 fled to the DRC. Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo.
“Tens of thousands of people are facing dire conditions,” UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva.
“Refugees told UNHCR they fled in panic when they heard gunshots, leaving their belongings behind.
“Most of the refugees live in dire conditions in remote and hard-to-reach areas near rivers, without basic shelter and facing severe food shortages.”
He said they depended on catching the fish and all the food the local villagers could spare.
For many refugees, the river is the only source of water for drinking, bathing and cooking.
Malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhea have become commonplace, Cheshirkov said.
“The refugees are in urgent need of food and shelter, clean water, essential aid items, sanitation and health care to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases,” did he declare.
Landlocked CAR is one of the poorest nations in the world and has seen a series of coups and wars since gaining independence from France in 1960.
Rebels controlling about two-thirds of the nation launched an offensive a week before presidential elections on December 27, attempting to blockade the capital Bangui and carrying out several attacks on key national roads.
On January 4, President Faustin Archange Touadera was declared the winner of the poll, but the opposition contested the results.
Two in three voters did not vote, mainly due to insecurity in a country plagued by civil conflict for eight years.
In CAR, the continuing unrest has hampered the humanitarian response and made it more difficult for IDPs to gain access, Cheshirkov said.
“The main road used to deliver supplies was also forcibly closed,” he said. “Armed groups are said to be present in the sites of Batangafo and Bria where the displaced communities are taking refuge, in violation of the humanitarian and civilian character of these sites.”
“Such a presence presents a serious protection risk for displaced persons, from the risk of forced recruitment to restriction of movement, to extortion or threats.”