Donors pledge support for humanitarian crisis

A donor conference for the Central African Republic (CAR) has ended in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, with funding assurances to the poverty-stricken nation.

"The meeting was successful, but did not go [on] much to address the problems in the Central African Republic," Maurizio Giuliano, the public information officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said on Monday at the end of the conference. "This is because decisions were to be made back in the capitals of the donor countries."

Giuliano said some governments present assured that they would lobby for funds to be allocated for the crisis. He said some nations enjoying a high degree of development were among the countries making this promise, but declined to name them. In past appeals for humanitarian support major contributors included Denmark, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United States and the World Bank.

"Some of the world's traditional aid donors have assured us that they will seek their governments' financial assistance to the humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic," he said.

"While this is a positive sign, this does not go a long way toward addressing the urgent humanitarian needs of the population in Central African Republic," he added.

Israel, he said, indicated at the meeting that it would make gestures. He added that Israel was a non-traditional donor that "usually assists in kind". Israel made an unexpected in-kind donation of medical supplies during the August 2005 floods, while the United Arab Emirates made a similar commitment in December 2005.

Conference officials said Germany made "strong" assurances of support for humanitarian action in CAR. The United Kingdom, while not present at the meeting, is believed to also be giving serious consideration to humanitarian projects in the country, following a strong appeal by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, at a meeting in Geneva on 12 January.

The UN organised the Monday meeting, attended by representatives of 20 donor countries.

According to OCHA new crises emerge regularly in the country, were life expectancy continues to fall at a rate of six months every year.

Because of banditry in the country's northwest since late December 2005, thousands are still homeless, while 45,000 refugees have fled to Chad, 15,000 of whom have left their homes since June 2000.

Cameroon was chosen to host the conference because most of the diplomatic missions for the CAR had their representatives resident in the capital, Yaounde, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Joseph Foumbi told a news conference on Monday.

The UN agencies and NGOS that met in Yaounde sought donor funding to end the humanitarian crisis through the Consolidated Appeals Process, a tool OCHA supports.

"We met to talk with the donors about what the situation looks like in the Central African Republic," Foumbi said.

He added: "We presented the exact picture of the situation in this country which is very alarming. The population in the Central African Republic is very vulnerable. People die en masse like in times of war or the explosion of a disease epidemic.

"The lack of hygiene, high level of HIV/AIDS (about 15 percent), poverty and hunger, etcetera, are silently killing the people of Central African Republic. But the reality is not noticed.

"This is why there is need for a rapid mobilisation and intervention by the international community to seek solutions to the humanitarian crisis."