28 July 2010The United Nations refugee agency today welcomed the decision by the Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) to allow access to displaced civilians an area in the far north of the country that had been off limits to aid workers since December due to insecurity. Humanitarian agencies had been banned from going to the area, which is hosting some of the nearly 200,000 people who are displaced within CAR owing to sporadic conflict between Government forces and rebels. “For us this means that we will be able to have access to people who for a year have been without any sort of assistance at all,” Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in an interview with UN Radio. Ms. Lejeune-Kaba said the priority now for UNHCR and its partners is to go to the area and assess the most important needs of the internally displaced persons (IDPs). She noted that many people in the area are in dire need of shelter because their houses have been destroyed. “Especially now with the rainy season, it’s even more important that we are able to go in and help them. “There are also major protection issues with a lot of looting and massive rape, abduction, torture and sometimes even killings reported by the villagers, and the presence of humanitarian workers there to assist those who are survivors of such abuses is very important,” she added. Earlier this month, an independent UN human rights expert stated that the protection of IDPs is crucial to building peace in CAR. “Efforts to build sustainable peace will be weakened as long as entire communities remain displaced and in despair,” Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the human rights of IDPs, said following a visit to the country.