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news | May 19, 2014 | CAR | Emergency

Zoom on ACTED’s Rapid Response programme in the Central African Republic

Since 2013, ACTED has been a partner in the set up of the Rapid Response Mechanism, an emergency pogramme supported by UNICF and the Central African Republic. This project aims to undertake rapid multisectorial evaluations in zones affected by conflict and to provide emergency responses, with the support of humanitarian partners. Since April 2013, ACTED teams have undertaken 17 evaluations and 10 emergency responses. Gregory, Rapid Response Mechanism project manager since July 2013, shares his experience on this crucial project in this unprecedented crisis in the Central African Republic.

What is the Rapid Response Mechanism?

The rapid response mechanism is a programme setup in several countries, which helps to understand and rapidly classify urgent needs of populations affected by crisis, and to provide them with humanitarian aid to reduce human loss. In 2013 in the Central African Republic, ACTED and Action Contre la Faim were the only actors involved in this project. In 2014 the programme expanded and now includes three other partners (IRC, PU-AMI, Solidarités International).

In 2013 and 2014, attacks by armed groups set off a Rapid Response Mechanism intervention. These attacks provoked mass displacement of populations to temporary camps, host homes in neighbouring villages or in the forest.

After such movements of population and as it is secure enough to do so, the Rapid Response Mechanism team travels to local communities where displaced people live, to identify their level of vulnerability and identify their urgent needs. After having analysed collected data on all different areas (health, education, food security, water, hygiene and sanitation…), the team does advocacy to encourage other humanitarian actors to intervene and provide humanitarian support.

The team can also proceed, as a last resort, with non-food item distributions, such as soap, mosquito nets, plastic covers, kitchen kits, jerricans and maps.

How does the Rapid Response Mechanism support vulnerable populations in the Central African Republic?

The Mechanism can reveal urgent needs of populations affected by crises and which then can be shared with humanitarian actors in the CAR. In 2013, we observed several cases where thousands of people (entire villages), were hidden in the forest in extremely precarious conditions, due to attacks by armed groups, in areas where humanitarian actors or proper functioning public service are absent.

The mechanism is not just for evaluation and advocacy, as it also includes pre-positioning of essential humanitarian items, which allow to provide an emergency response when other actors are unable to respond.

What are the results of the 1st phase of the Rapid Response Mechanism for ACTED?

Between April 2013 and March 2014, ACTED provided humanitarian aid to over 16,000 families (85,000 people), through the distribution of 8000 mosquito nets, 20,000 jerricans, 16,000 mats and 19,000 sheets. Action Contre la Faim also provided food items and ACTED’s multisectoral investigations and advocacy informed other humanitarian actors’ emergency and longer term responses.

What is the difference between the first phase in 2013 and the second one in 2014?

The mechanism has changed a lot in 2014, with an increase in partners and operational capacity especially in the water, hygiene and sanitation area.

What have you learnt at both personal and professional levels from this project?

The project has helped me better understand the challenges of the Central African Republic context, by carrying out investigations and distributions in a context of insecurity and the presence of several armed groups, often responsible for violent exactions and population displacements.

Furthermore, applying the Do No Harm principle obliged us to make very difficult decisions: for example the decision to not carry out (or at least to delay) a humanitarian aid distribution to vulnerable displaced people when it was clear that this would attract the attention of armed groups stationed not far away and looking to loot people, and ultimately put their lives in danger.

What has been your most memorable experience as project manager?

Without a doubt the distribution of nonfood items in Gbadalao, a village in the South Central zone of the country, not far from Mobaye city. Following a massacre by an armed group at the end of July 2013, all the members of the village, over 2000 people, sought refuge in the forest. My team went investigate the displaced people to evaluate the conditions they were living in and their needs. This was followed by a nonfood item distribution in September 2013. Whereas we thought that the displaced people would leave the forest just to seek humanitarian aid and then return, we were pleasantly surprised to see that they felt safe enough to decide to return to their villages.

This distribution had a double positive effect: not only did these people, who had lost everything, receive essential items, but they also regained confidence to return to their villages when seeing that a humanitarian organization was intervening in them.