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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Donor conference begins in Cameroon

NAIROBI, 20 February 2006 (IRIN) - A donor conference for the Central African Republic (CAR) began on Monday in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, organised by the United Nations.

According to a statement issued on Friday in New York by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UN agencies and NGOs are due to ask donors to fund humanitarian needs through the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), a tool OCHA supports.

OCHA said a recently launched 2006 appeal requested just over US $46 million for CAR.

The donor conference is being held in Yaounde because Cameroon hosts most of the embassies and cooperation offices responsible for CAR. OCHA said acting Humanitarian Coordinator Joseph Foumbi was chairing the meeting.

"The UN is expected to issue a call for help on behalf of the local populations, urging donors to generously fund the 2006 Appeal without delay," OCHA reported. "[CAR] Finance Minister Théodore Dabanga, who will represent the Central African government, is expected to echo this request in the strongest possible terms."

According to OCHA, the humanitarian crisis in CAR continues to persist for at least one million vulnerable people. It said that over a month ago the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, cited the deteriorating situation in the country's north as the world's most neglected crisis.

"Nobody speaks about it, and it is becoming a huge problem and a major tragedy – right in the centre of the African continent," Guterres said.

He added that unrest in the country could easily threaten regional stability, with implications for Chad and Cameroon.

OCHA said life expectancy in CAR continued to fall at a rate of six months every year.

"New dramas emerge regularly," it said. "Following banditry in the country's north since late December, thousands are still homeless, while 45,000 refugees have fled to Chad, 15,000 of whom have left their homes since June 2000."

UN agencies and NGOs struggle to get funding to support the internally displaced.

"We are highly alarmed by the reports we receive from the field, and feel frustrated that we are unable to provide immediate food aid," Dominique Ferretti, the UN World Food Programme acting director said.

OCHA said although most major donor governments have confirmed their attendance at the Yaounde meeting, organisers were not optimistic that pledges or commitments would be made at the event.

"Whether this looming humanitarian disaster will be averted, will ultimately be determined in major world capitals," Maurizio Giuliano, the spokesperson for the Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR, said.

Theme (s): Conflict, Early Warning, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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