A few weeks ago I was in the Central African Republic, one of the most complex humanitarian crises I have experienced. 420,000 people are internally displaced and over 2.3 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. This is about half of the population of the CAR.On top of going through numerous coup d'états since its independence, this war-torn country also has some of the lowest human development indicators in the world.
While it's evident that this country is in desperate need, the reality is that the challenges within CAR vastly exceed the humanitarian assistance received. The current UN appeal for 2016 is funded at less than 2%. As a result, we are seeing a shortage of food, water, shelter, protection and peacebuilding efforts. While humanitarian actors continue to provide the aforementioned interventions on the ground, the families of CAR are receiving far less than what they need.
The history of CAR tells us what the war-torn country needs is long-term sustainable assistance combined with peacekeeping and emergency aid. Unfortunately, this essential combination is one which the international community often struggles to deliver.
In Bangui, I met with community leaders who were perpetually faced with challenges while trying to support their loved ones in their neighbourhood. They were dependent on the UN peacekeepers for security, as well as on aid agencies for immediate medical care and sanitation. Yet, what they craved was a plan which will help them map out a future- things such as education for their children and employment opportunities. At the moment, not only are humanitarian aid agencies struggling to meet the needs of those who stayed behind during the conflict, but they are also wondering how they will be able to meet the needs of the hundreds and thousands more refugees who will eventually return home.
The challenges above are sadly not unique to CAR, but also exist in other protracted crises such as Syria, South Sudan and Burundi. Across Southern Africa, for example, on top of dealing with issues such as peace and security, families are now trying to cope with the effects of El Nino and rising food prices.
As discussed at World Humanitarian Summit this week, it's great to see delegates committing to do more in tackling some of these problems. Too often, emergency responses have been described as either too little, too late or ineffective or uncoordinated. The Summit aimed to create better ways of doing this; of ensuring that where possible, communities can be prepared to cope with disasters beforehand by building resilience and mechanisms to handle change. This in effect will ensure that when disasters do strike,local communities can activate their own emergency response capabilities while also receiving effective support of international agencies as required.
Three issues that World Vision has flagged ahead of the summit were education in emergencies, funding system reform and developing more innovative technologies with private partnership. Although the summit was a positive step forward as it provided space and opportunities for delegates to critically engage in these topics, it was disappointing to see that issues facing the world's most vulnerable children were left out of the agenda. Global decision-makers need to prioritisechildren who are living in conflict. They are the ones who often pay the price.
In the end, the test of success of the Summit will be judged on whether affected families living in crises are getting the assistance they need.
We have to ensure that the commitments pledged are followed through and the conversations continue onward. This could be the key moment where the world comes together to find more effective ways to collaborate, and where aid agencies and governments replaced some of the cynicism and confusion with better solutions and strategies. It is now up to governments and aid agencies to act on the promises made in Istanbul.
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