Central African Republic Conflict: Fast Facts and How to Help

Updated Apr 04, 2023
15-Minute Read
Brutal conflict between rebel groups in Central African Republic has left the country in a state of violent chaos since 2012. 

The Central African Republic conflict has permeated every facet of society. Schools have closed, the health care system is barely functioning, and Central Africans have been forced to flee their homes. 

Adult decisions and actions are the cause of this civil war, yet, children are the ones who are suffering disproportionately. 
  1. How did the Central African Republic Conflict start?
  2. What is happening in Central African Republic?
  3. Where are Central Africans going?
  4. How is the conflict affecting children?
  5. What is the humanitarian response to the Central African Republic conflict?
  6. What is World Vision doing?
  7. How can I help Central Africans? 
1. How did the central African Republic Conflict start?
Violence erupted in the Central African Republic in 2012 when the Seleka, a coalition of rebel groups, accused the government of failing to abide by peace agreements.
In 2013, the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize and forcibly seized power. A transitional government was then established and entrusted with restoring peace.

Though the Seleka was formally disbanded, new rebel groups known as ex-Seleka continued committing violent acts. By the end of 2013 the crisis deepened when the mainly Christian anti-Balaka movement took up arms against Muslims in retaliation.

Ceasefires signed in 2014 and 2015 did little to put an end of the Central African Republic civil war. 

2. What is happening in Central African Republic?
Years of conflict and instability have destroyed infrastructure and government institutions, leaving millions of Central Africans without access to clean water, health care and food.

Only three percent of Central Africans have access to running water. Many water access points, such as wells and pumps, have been destroyed by years of violence - others have been contaminated by dead bodies.

The spread of cholera and other waterborne diseases increases during the rainy season, which lasts most of the year in the south and is limited to the summer months in the north. Cholera spreads through water contaminated by the feces of an infected person, an issue made worse by inadequate or overflowing latrines.

Health Care
A shortage of skilled health workers and medical supplies mean the health care system in Central African Republic is barely functioning. Attacks against medical facilities, patients and ambulances threaten what little health care is available.

Victims of violent attacks are treated for gunshot and stab wounds, burns and injuries from rape. In addition to physical wounds, Central Africans are experiencing significant mental health needs as a result of traumatizing violence and insecurity.

Limited access to immunizations and sanitation mean that easily preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections continue to have life-threatening consequences. 

Central African Republic currently ranks worst on the Global Hunger Index. With a score of 50.7, it is the only country classified as extremely alarming. Half the population does not have enough food. 

More than 80 per cent of Central Africans rely on agriculture, but ongoing civil war has forced farmers to abandon their fields. 

Many markets have been deserted after becoming the target of violent attacks. The market in Batangafo was destroyed by attacks in 2014. Ex-Seleka rebels now use the surrounding area as a base, scaring locals from returning. 

In January 2018, armed groups took control of lands surrounding the previously stable town of Paoua, driving 75,000 people into town. The massive population has put a strain on community resources, drying up water pumps and leaving no space to plant food. 

A woman in Central African Republic carries a bag of emergency food on her head.A woman in Paoua receives emergency food from the World Food Programme

These attacks have also disrupted projects run by the World Food Programme aimed at establishing long term food security in the area. A town which once grew and stored its own peanuts and beans, now relies on food shipments to survive. If crops are not planted soon, an entire harvest season will be lost, putting the region at risk of famine.

As of 2018, armed groups control more than two-thirds of the country and violence continues to spread into previously stable regions.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed during the course of the Central African Republic conflict and more than half of the population currently requires humanitarian aid.

According to the United Nations, one in four Central Africans are displaced internally or externally – the same rate currently seen in the Syrian refugee crisis.

3. Where are Central Africans going?
Over 1.1 million Central Africans have been displaced. About half a million have been driven into neighbouring countries, while over 600,000 are displaced within Central African Republic. 

In an attempt to escape violence, internally displaced Central Africans will often leave without food or water, walking for weeks to hide in the bush where they have no access to humanitarian assistance.

Others are fleeing into Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo, with smaller numbers in Sudan and South Sudan.

4. How is the conflict affecting children?
The conflict in Central African Republic has stolen the childhood of over a million children. Many children have lost loved ones in unspeakable acts of violence, and many suffer the consequences of physical or psychological trauma. 

1.3 million children in Central African Republic are currently in need of humanitarian assistance.

Child Soldiers
14,000 child soldiers have been recruited by armed forces on all sides of the Central African Republic conflict. Some children have been kidnapped, but others join voluntarily to seek protection or avenge the death of a loved one. 

Sartourne, 19, joined the Seleka rebel group when he was 13 to avenge the killings of his brothers and sister.

A Central African man with one leg sits on a bench while holding crutches.
Sartourne, 19, lost his leg in a violent attack while he was a child soldier. Now, he has been rehabilitated and received vocational training as a mechanic at a World Vision Peace Club.

After a year with the Seleka, Sartourne realized he wasn’t able to go through with killing someone. He managed to escape, and spent months hiding in the bush before joining a World Vision Peace Club. 

Sexual Violence
Girls and women have suffered sexual slavery and rape at the hands of both Ex-Seleka and Anti-Balaka rebels. Sexual violence in Central African Republic is both a byproduct and tactic of war

Survivors of sexual violence suffer long-term consequences such as illness and injury, unwanted pregnancy, stigma and abandonment and loss of livelihoods or access to education. Many girls and women in Central African Republic do not seek medical care after sexual violence due to lack of health care facilities and fear of stigma and rejection.

Access to education is one of the most effective ways to move children out of poverty and into a brighter future.

But according to UNICEF, a third of all children in Central African Republic are currently out of school

Many schools were forced to close as a result on ongoing instability. Other schools, like the ones in Paoua, have been closed to provide shelter for internally displaced Central Africans.

Almost 400,000 children are internally displaced after their families were forced to flee violent attacks. 

Angela, 15, and her friend Innes, 11, are currently living in a camp for internally displaced people in Central African Republic. Before the conflict, Angela and Innes grew up together and went to school together. When rebels came and burned down their village, they fled together with their mothers taking nothing more than the clothes on their backs. 

Two girls in Central African Republic sit outside a building.
Angela, 15, and Innes, 11, have been at a camp for internally displaced people for 4 months.

Angela and Innes are still adjusting to life at the camp for internally displaced people – they receive food rations from the United Nations and find shelter in empty dwellings. But the greatest adjustment has been to a life without school.   

The lack of health care facilities in Central African Republic is deeply impacting children. 41 per cent of all children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition, causing irreversible damage to their health and development. Close to half of all children in Central African Republic are not fully immunized, leaving them vulnerable to preventable diseases.

Children are also frequently the victims of violent attacks, including murder and abduction.

5. What is the humanitarian response to the Central African Republic conflict?
More than half the country is in need of humanitarian assistance – the highest per capita caseload in the world.

Humanitarian organizations provide medical care and emergency food, while advocating for child protection. 

But the growing violence and brutality has even impacted humanitarians. In 2017 Central African Republic became the most dangerous place for humanitarians after a total of 14 aid workers were killed. The first quarter of 2018 saw the loss of 9 humanitarian workers. 

Even hospitals and recovering patients are not immune to violent attacks.

But despite the great need, funding is low. The Central African Republic conflict has gone from being a forgotten crisis to a neglected emergency. By March 2018, the humanitarian response to the crisis was receiving only two per cent of the funds needed to meet the dire need. It is currently the most underfunded humanitarian response in the world. 

6. What is World Vision doing?
World Vision is currently working to provide humanitarian assistance to children and families in Central African Republic. Our activities include child protection, food voucher distribution and long-term food security.

In the town of Batangafo, World Vision is operating a farming group aimed at developing food security. But the group, which is run by Dennis, an Imam, and Mama Elizabeth, a Christian, has an important secondary goal of creating social unity between Muslims and Christians. Thanks to our donors, Dennis and Mama Elizabeth are able to distribute agricultural kits consisting of shovels, hoes, irrigation kits and seeds.

A man and woman in Central African Republic smile while holding vegetables.
Mama Elizabeth and Imam Dennis lead a World Vision inter faith farming group.

World Vision also runs peace clubs, like the one in Damara, a sub-prefecture, to help rehabilitate children. In 2013, Damara was attacked by rebel groups and children were recruited as child soldiers. Through the support of World Vision and local community leaders, children were rescued, rehabilitated and enrolled in peace clubs. 

A total of 4,944 children - 2,604 boys and 2,340 girls - were trained on the culture of peace and social cohesion. Of those children, 302 were rescued from armed forces. Some children were returned to school, and others who were beyond schooling years received vocational training.

A Central African woman sits at a sewing machine.
Eoldie, 18, learned tailoring as a vocation at World Vision's peace club.

7. How can I help Central Africans?
You can support World Vision programming by making a donation to where it's most needed.