Central African Republic: People with Disabilities at High Risk

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Wednesday June 21, 2017 - 08:58:14 in World News by SomaliUpdate Staff Reporter
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    Central African Republic: People with Disabilities at High Risk

    NAIROBI — People with disabilities in the Central African Republic have faced violent attacks, forced displacement, and ongoing neglect in the humanitarian response, Human Rights Watch said today.

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People with disabilities in the Central African Republic have faced violent attacks.
NAIROBI — People with disabilities in the Central African Republic have faced violent attacks, forced displacement, and ongoing neglect in the humanitarian response, Human Rights Watch said today.
A peace accord signed on June 19, 2017, offers a chance to help this abused and marginalized group.
New Human Rights Watch research in the country shows that people with a range of disabilities are often unable to flee violence, are especially vulnerable to attack while trying to flee, and face unsafe and unhealthy conditions in displacement camps.
"The peace accord should bring a respite for civilians who have been brutalized in this conflict, especially people with disabilities who suffer violence and neglect,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "People with disabilities and other at-risk groups should get the protection and assistance they desperately need.”
In April 2017, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 30 people with disabilities in Bambari and Kaga-Bandoro, two towns affected by a recent surge in violence. This research builds on an April 2015 report to reveal the ongoing abuse that people with disabilities face in the conflict.
To improve protection for people with disabilities, the United Nations peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, and relevant United Nations bodies should monitor and report publicly about abuses against these people and dedicate resources to improving the limited humanitarian assistance that they receive, Human Rights Watch said. Governments should also urgently contribute to the UN’s humanitarian appeal for the Central African Republic.
In some cases, people with disabilities either could not or chose not to flee an attack. "Jacques” from the town of Wadja-Wadja said that fighters from a Seleka faction, the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (l’Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique, UPC,) killed his friend "Spa,” a 40-year-old man with a physical disability, when they attacked the town of Yassine on March 20.
"Spa did not like his crutches because he felt they made him slow,” Jacques said. "When the attack started, he was not moving. I don’t know why. Maybe he thought he would not be killed because he had a disability. When I went back to Yassine I saw him dead. He had been shot in the chest. He was still in the same place I saw him when I fled.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed people with various physical disabilities who were threatened or shot at as they tried to flee fighting. One woman who cannot walk watched as her two children, 4 and 5, drowned while trying to cross a river alone.
On June 19, the government and 13 of 14 armed groups active in the country signed a peace accord mediated by the Roman Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio. The accord commits the parties to end their hostilities and to recognize last year’s presidential election results.
The accord is a step toward ending the conflict that should also promote accountability for grave crimes that were committed. This includes criminal prosecutions under the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court, a hybrid domestic court with local and international staffing, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), Human Rights Watch said. The accord takes note of both courts and calls for the creation of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
More than 500,000 people are living in camps for internally displaced people, and about 400,000 are refugees in neighboring countries. There is no data on the numbers and needs of people with disabilities.
For people with disabilities, either from before the conflict or due to injuries sustained during attacks, conditions in the internal displacement camps are particularly harsh. Camp residents receive limited aid but people with disabilities, especially those without family members, struggle to get food due to the often chaotic and disorganized nature of food distributions.
"At food distributions people fight and I have to crawl on the ground to find a little,” said "Yvonne,” a 55-year-old woman with a physical disability who fled fighting in Bakala and lives in the PK8 camp outside of Bambari. "Sometimes I don’t even have two beans.”
Others said they cannot access showers and toilets because they lack ramps and are too small for a wheelchair. "François,” who fled Ndassima, described his struggles at the PK8 camp. "The access to the toilets is so difficult,” he said. "I have to walk with my hands and I don’t have gloves. I must wrap my hands in tissue if I can find it. Most of the time I can’t find it. Honestly it makes me pity myself.”
Access to the camps is part of the problem. UN agencies and other aid groups are sometimes unable to get supplies to camps due to danger on the roads. The lack of resources presents another problem. A UN humanitarian appeal has received only 28 percent of its US$399 million target from donor nations.
While the UN and aid organizations are managing a complex crisis with limited means, they could do more to identify and report on the challenges to assist people with disabilities, and devise programs to address their plight, Human Rights Watch said.
Absent UN monitoring and reporting, the full impact of the conflict on people with disabilities remains unclear. A 369-page Mapping Report issued by the UN in May documents war crimes by all parties to the conflict from 2003 to 2015, but does not cover how people with disabilities have been affected by the fighting. Reports from the secretary-general also have not mentioned the conflict’s impact on people with disabilities.
"People with disabilities are suffering disproportionately in the Central African Republic and then falling through the cracks,” Mudge said. "Governments and the UN should dedicate more funds and improve the protection of civilians, with special attention to those in urgent need.”
The Central African Republic has been in crisis since late 2012, when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels began a military campaign against the government of Francois Bozizé, seizing Bangui in March 2013. Their rule was marked by widespread human rights abuses, including the wide-scale killing of civilians. In mid-2013, the Christian and animist anti-balaka militia organized to fight the Seleka. Associating all Muslims with the Seleka, the anti-balaka carried out large-scale reprisal attacks against Muslim civilians in Bangui and western parts of the country.

- HRW -


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