CRS in Central African Republic
The crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) continues. The conflict, which began in December 2012, escalated throughout 2013 and into 2014, forcing people to flee their homes and resulting in more than 750,000 internally displaced people country-wide. Today, while security has significantly improved overall, particularly in the capital Bangui, the conflict is active in certain parts of CAR, and more than half a million individuals remain displaced inside and outside the country.
CAR is relatively unknown to most of the world. Landlocked, with porous borders, frequent political coups and limited international trade, the country has not been able to develop its potential, despite having a wealth of natural resources and large amounts of arable land. CAR is currently ranked 180th of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Program's Human Development Index. Average life expectancy at birth is only 49.1 years. Children who do reach their fifth birthday have little chance of seeing the inside of a classroom or a functioning health center. Sustainable economic opportunities are scarce; even with access to a livelihood, insecurity and impassable roads reduce national commerce to a trickle.
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CRS' History in Central African Republic
Catholic Relief Services' activities in the Central African Republic began in 1999 and initially focused on helping Church partners build stable peace in the country after several years of unrest. Additional assistance included support to a large number of orphaned and/or vulnerable children following years of instability, and targeting the most vulnerable families for seed support and improved agricultural techniques.
Beginning in 2006, the situation in CAR deteriorated. Fighting between the national army and other armed groups, as well as increased banditry and rebel activity, displaced tens of thousands of families in the northwest and north central areas of the country, and the northeast, where there was spillover from conflicts in Sudan and Chad. In response, CRS opened an office in CAR's capital, Bangui, in April 2007, to contribute to the humanitarian effort through emergency aid to internally displaced people.
Since that time, CRS has expanded our programs, working in partnership with the Church and other international and national non-governmental organizations to implement early recovery and development activities, with a focus on hunger, shelter, savings and credit, peacebuilding and social cohesion, and community protection and resiliency. CRS' most recent projects have addressed the issue of chronic food shortages in the country by distributing crop seeds and tools as well as vegetable seeds for gardens for the period following harvest, enabling people to have access to better-quality seeds and farming equipment, and access to diverse foods for an improved diet. Shelter projects have enabled families to rebuild their homes and to live in dignity.