Overcoming remote challenges in Central African Republic
Overcoming the various challenges in the remote areas of the country has been the driving force for re-establishing the humanitarian hub in in the town of Kaga-Bandoro in Central African Republic (CAR). The compund now has the capacity to accommodate 40 humanitarian staff to support the affected population.
Central African Republic is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. This landlocked country in the middle of the African continent is lush with forest and has an abundance of water. Since independence in 1960 the country has endured dictator regimes, coups and political instability; the latest trouble arouse in March 2013 when the President was overthrown. Since then, sectarian violence has resulted in violent attacks on and between the civilian populations. The sustained violence and displacements exacerbates an already dire humanitarian situation in the country (ACAPS).
UN-OCHA’s latest figures state that 2.7 million of the total population of 4.6 million are in need of humanitarian assistance and almost 10 % of the population (436,300) are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The need to deliver critical relief assistance is urgent, and so the current IHP project aims to facilitate humanitarian access, by securing safer and appropriate living and working conditions for humanitarian organisations in the central-north part of the country.
The IHP partners MSB (the lead agency), DEMA and ASS-Lux set out to renovate a badly damaged UN Inter-agency compound in the town Kaga-Bandoro. The compound now provides working space, accommodation and other necessary facilities for more than 40 humanitarian staff. 22 prefabricated houses has been installed and existing buildings for warehouse, workshop, offices and accommodation, including toilets, showers and laundry room have been completely renovated. Generators have been provided, new wiring for electricity is installed, and bricked and cemented walkways are being finalized, which will be vital during the rainy season.
Planning, assessment and refurbishment was anticipated to take one year, and handover to UNICEF, the receiving organisation, was planned for the end of May 2015. The refurbishment of the compound is on time, and will be fully completed in time for handover. Today the facilities are used by several UN funds and programmes, including UNICEF, OCHA, WHO, WFP and UNFPA. Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) like Save the Children are also benefiting from the new compound. More than 35 staff currently live and work in the compound and more are expected to move in. The availability of accommodation has also allowed more UN and NGO staff to have temporary access to the field in order to deliver critical relief assistance, for example regarding carrying out a nationwide vaccination campaigns.
As with every project there are ups and downs and lessons learnt, but overall the final result is above expectations according to some of the UN staff that is already living and working within the walls of the compound. There have been some major challenges, such as the extreme heat and humidity, heavy rains, language barriers, logistics an security concerns. Finding appropriate material and spare parts and technical support staff, especially for water, sanitation and electrical systems, has been another challenging bottleneck. The main lessons learnt drawn from this is - Keep it simple! Another key factor is to as much as possible adapt to local circumstances to ensure the sustainability of the project. It is vital to understand that our job is not only the work that is carried out during deployment, but how well and how long the compound will be functioning.
Personally I find there are two absolute highlights; first of all the successful result of the reconstruction of the compound, that is very much appreciated already; and secondly working with the local construction staff that have worked meticulously in hot sun throughout the project. Work days have been filled with jokes and laughter as well as with hard work.
IHP Team Leader, Kaga-Bondoro