Central African Republic
Mercy Corps has been working in the Central African Republic since 2007, meeting urgent humanitarian needs and building resilient communities. Last year, we reached over 180,000 people across the country.
Despite being rich in mineral resources, the Central African Republic (CAR) is among the world’s poorest countries, having experienced a series of military coups and armed rebellions since the country’s independence from France in 1960. The most recent violent conflict started in late 2012, when a coalition of fighters from the country’s north overthrew the government in the capital Bangui and ousted the president who had been in power since 2003. What followed was a three-year violent conflict which displaced one in four people, over 630,000 of whom fled to neighbouring countries. Despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2019, violent confrontations over the control of natural resources and intercommunal conflicts have persisted. They reached a peak in December 2020 when several armed groups created the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (Coalition of Patriots for Change, or CPC) to thwart the on-going election process. Since then, violent confrontations between the CPC and the Central African and bilateral forces have sparked across the country resulting in mass displacements and major disruptions in the supply chain of basic commodities.
Plagued by poor governance and corruption, CAR has been trapped in a cycle of conflict and underdevelopment for years. Most Central Africans live hand to mouth and find it extremely difficult to accumulate assets or plan for long-term economic activities. The recurring security crises have drastically impacted the economy which suffered a strong blow in 2013 and has failed to recover since. Following attacks from the CPC, the main axis for imports (Cameroon to Bangui road) was closed for weeks in early 2021 leading to shortages and sharp inflation in basic goods. This situation was further aggravated with the surge of COVID‑19 and the resulting movement restrictions that disrupted the livelihoods of a big part of the population.
As a result, 2.3 million people are food insecure and an estimated 2.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Only one in three people have access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. Recent flooding caused by climate change has impacted thousands of people and increased risks for waterborne diseases. Women are especially at high risk for gender-based violence, which has significantly increased due to COVID‑19 restrictions.
Since 2007, Mercy Corps has been working with Central African communities to help them recover from the most recent conflict and build resilience, allowing them to better cope with future challenges. In response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, we have adapted our programmes so we can continue to safely provide assistance to communities across CAR. Our programmes focus on the following five areas:
Mercy Corps responds to the basic needs of conflict and disaster-affected communities by providing access to food, clean water and sanitation, shelter, and other essential goods and services. We often distribute cash so families can decide and purchase what they need most. In 2020, Mercy Corps introduced e-vouchers as a new modality for cash distributions. This innovative approach in the CAR context enabled households to securely purchase the commodities required to meet their basic needs. When local markets are not functioning, we provide physical goods to meet the most urgent needs.
Water, sanitation, and hygiene
We improve safe and equitable access to clean water and sanitation facilities and promote healthy hygiene behaviours to prevent disease, especially in communities affected by displacement. We rehabilitate water pumps and other distribution systems that have been damaged, protecting existing water sources and preventing tensions over scarce resources. We also construct latrines and conduct hygiene awareness activities.
We strengthen community capacity to prevent human rights violations and gender based-violence through outreach and education. We also offer holistic services to survivors, including psychosocial counseling and referrals to legal and medical care.
Economic recovery and development
We create opportunities for diversified and stable incomes by training entrepreneurs, particularly women and young people, to revive and grow their small businesses and help connect them to financial services and literacy so they can make and save money.
In rural communities, we organise and train Village Savings and Loans Associations which provide opportunities to save, invest in income-generating activities, and borrow money when times are tough. In areas affected by conflict, we provide communities short-term work opportunities on projects that address needs in their community. Planned in close partnership with local community leaders, these projects focus on rebuilding infrastructure to help pave the way to economic recovery.
In addition, we provide scholarships for vulnerable youth, with a focus on young women, to attend local vocational training programmes, and at the same time, help training centres strengthen their operations. Once students graduate, we help link them to employment opportunities.
Social cohesion and governance
Mercy Corps works to facilitate peaceful interactions and reconciliation between conflict-affected communities. We do this by bringing together members of different groups to work on joint projects that address shared priorities, and supporting local peace committees that mediate conflict and influence local government to provide basic services in an inclusive and equitable manner. We also help citizens, especially women, youth, and minority groups, understand their rights and how to make their voices heard in local decision-making processes.