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COVID-19 in CAR: “Leave no one behind”

Health Inclusion Prevention
Central African Republic

The Central African Republic which is one of the poorest countries in the world and is already facing one of the worst humanitarian crises, now has to face the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanity & Inclusion's teams are working to ensure people with disabilities and vulnerable individuals at risk of exclusion are included in epidemic prevention actions.

A person with disabilities followed by HI, Bambari, Central African Republic (CAR)

A person with disabilities followed by HI, Bambari, Central African Republic (CAR) | © A. Surprenant/Collectif Item/HI

“The Central African Republic (CAR) is already experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis. The country has been racked by civil war for seven years. More than a quarter of the population was displaced by violence in 2013. The east of the country is currently the worst affected. Various highly active armed groups continue to hold sway. This regularly displaces people, which could worsen the pandemic,” explains Perrine Benoist, Humanity & Inclusion (HI)’s operations officer in CAR. “The civil war is gradually destroying local support networks. This is really worrying because many people are highly vulnerable to the new humanitarian crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The people assisted by our teams – displaced, older or isolated people, people with disabilities or chronic illnesses, some of whom do not speak the country’s main languages, and the poorest people who live in dire conditions - are among the most vulnerable.”

In this context, HI’s teams are working [1] to improve messages on the risk of COVID-19 and the need for community involvement. Our teams are also raising awareness in the most vulnerable groups in order for them to be prepared and to protect themselves from the virus. The teams also provide support to local actors, authorities and organisations, and build their capacity to monitor and prevent infections. This is done in coordination with the national crisis unit.

Helping people with disabilities and “at risk of exclusion” to access humanitarian assistance

“During a conflict or mass displacement, people with disabilities are often ‘left behind’ and forgotten in needs assessments or aid planning. The threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in CAR, added to the existing humanitarian crisis, means they face even more obstacles than usual. Long distances, an environment that makes travel difficult and poor access to information can, for example, prevent them from accessing food distribution points or hygiene kits,” explains Perrine Benoist. 

In a situation made worse by COVID-19, for people with disabilities; particularly the most dependent who have a sensory or intellectual impairment or who require regular care, the lack of information and the difficulties in accessing services, added to the stigma they suffer, can lead communities to neglecting them. This could be fatal. A study by HI in CAR revealed that 43% of people with disabilities suffer discrimination when accessing care and social services, and humanitarian aid.

However, people with disabilities are not the only ones to face this problem. Many other groups are at risk of being excluded, including older people, displaced people, many of them very poor, and people with chronic illness. As a result, we work at multiple levels, taking a highly integrated approach, and raise the awareness of other actors to ensure the most vulnerable individuals are systematically included in all assistance services, including emergency response.

Inclusive messages and actions: leaving no one behind

HI’s COVID-19 awareness-raising and prevention actions are designed to ensure “no one is left behind”. We adapt our messages to each vulnerable group - people over the age of 60, members of disabled people’s organisations and people with chronic illnesses - so they then pass on these messages to their own networks.

HI’s teams visit people’s homes to raise awareness of hygiene and basic personal precautionary measures that help prevent the spread of the virus. They also train community representatives, members of young people’s organisations, women and people with disabilities to teach basic prevention measures and best practices to members of their networks.

Logistical support to the Covid-19 response

In response to Covid-19, HI transports humanitarian aid and uses this opportunity to make road hauliers aware of basic precautionary measures. As lorry drivers frequently pick up supplies in Cameroon, an area which is  affected by the virus, these individuals run greater risks than others

[1] With financial support from the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UKAid, and the French Centre de Crise & de Soutien

Date published: 26/05/20


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