In this file photo taken on Nov. 8, 2018, Nigerian refugee Aicha Younoussa poses with a smartphone in front of her tent in Bol. Due to Boko Haram's threat, Aicha and her family left Nigeria four years ago finding a shelter in the refugee camp of Baga Sola in Southern Chad. (Xinhua/AFP)
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- A UN humanitarian official said Thursday that out of the estimated 181 million people living in Central Africa, nearly 26 million will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2019, representing a dramatic increase of 22 percent from 2018.
To put this into perspective, Director of Operations and Advocacy division of the UN relief wing (OCHA), Reena Ghelani, said one person out of seven in Central Africa is caught up in crisis and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection, compared to one out of 70 people globally.
She told the Security Council that violence, extreme poverty, climate change and population growth are behind these humanitarian crises affecting countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and Cameroon.
DRC: EBOLA AND CHOLERA
About half of the projected 26 million people in need are found in the DRC, as the humanitarian situation in the country has deteriorated further in 2018 and is one of the world's largest and most complex crises, Ghelani said, blaming Ebola and cholera for worsening the situation.
She said the Ebola epidemic in the northeast of DRC has claimed 289 lives and is still spreading and the response is particularly difficult given the extremely challenging security environment, with attacks against civilians by non-state armed groups interrupting Ebola containment efforts.
In the meantime, the current cholera outbreak is the largest on record in the past 15 years, she said. "With more than 26,000 cases and almost 900 deaths this year, cholera has killed even more people in the DRC than Ebola."
In addition, the security situation has deteriorated in the east of the country, causing new large-scale displacements of people in search of safety and protection, she said.
Further, the influx of more than 360,000 Congolese nationals returning from Angola is adding pressure to the fragile Kasai province, already affected by years of inter-ethnic conflicts.
CAR: RELAPSE AND SPILLOVER
In CAR, the humanitarian situation is also extremely dire. Areas relatively stable in the past, such as the southeast, have this year relapsed into conflict.
The escalating violence has taken a heavy toll on the people in CAR, Ghelani said, with 2.9 million people - well over half the population - now requiring humanitarian assistance.
"The number of internally displaced people has reached 643,000 -- an increase by over 60 percent this year alone. One in four children in the country is displaced," the UN official said.
The worsening situation in CAR has also had a significant impact on neighboring countries.
Cameroon is today hosting 268,000 refugees from CAR while Chad is hosting 101,000, according to Ghelani. This translates into a significant burden on already vulnerable host communities.
CHAD AND CAMEROON: BOKO HARAM AND SEPARATISTS
Further, Chad and Cameroon - in addition to Nigeria and Niger - are seriously affected by the crisis involving Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin.
"Now in its ninth year, this regional crisis has led 2.4 million people to flee their homes, and some 10.8 million people currently require humanitarian assistance and protection," Ghelani said.
Beyond the regional crisis in the Lake Chad Basin and the influx of refugees from CAR, Cameroon is facing an additional humanitarian crisis in its southwest and northwest regions.
In recent months, fighting between the separatists and Cameroon's forces has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing, with hundreds of people killed in the two English-speaking regions in the largely Francophone country.
"Internal displacement in this part of Cameroon has tripled, and today counts 437,000 internally displaced people. In addition, over 30,000 Cameroonians have fled across the border to Nigeria seeking refuge. This is now one of the fastest growing displacement crises in Africa," she said.
The majority of the displaced are hiding in dense forests, without adequate shelter and lacking food, water and basic services. Schools and markets are also disrupted, and there are alarming health needs, she noted.
Despite limited access, humanitarian partners are scaling up their presence in Cameroon. Ghelani said food distributions have so far reached more than 17,000 people and some 4,000 people have received shelter materials.
LACK OF HUMANITARIAN FUNDING
However, Ghelani lamented severe underfunding has a significant impact on the humanitarian community s ability to respond to the escalating crisis.
She pointed out this year, every single Humanitarian Response Plan in Central Africa -- for Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- is funded at less than the global average of 56 percent, and Cameroon is the least funded of all, at 39 percent of requirements.
"This needs to change for the humanitarian response in the region to be fully effective, and I am calling on member states for their urgent support," she urged.