As the violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) continues, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has called on the international community to help prevent the conflict from leaving a legacy of even greater deprivation and poverty in the country.

High level representatives of donor governments, including France and the US, as well as the African Union and European Union, are meeting today in Brussels to discuss how to respond to recent sectarian violence that has uprooted nearly one million people in the country. It is estimated that 2,2-million, about half the population, need humanitarian aid and 1,1-million are facing food shortages because of continued fighting.

The broader United Nations system and humanitarian partners have together appealed for $548-million to provide immediate humanitarian relief. Meanwhile, UNDP representatives have warned that the humanitarian emergency could be just the tip of the iceberg unless efforts to address the crisis also include measures to protect the development achievements made in the country in recent years.

“The current violence in the Central African Republic will affect the country for decades to come after the destruction of lives, livelihoods, entire communities, institutions, and infrastructure,” says UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

“While fulfilling immediate humanitarian needs is essential, we also ask the international community to support efforts aimed at reconciliation, and efforts to restore trust and confidence, rebuild state institutions and create jobs so people can get back on their feet as quickly as possible. The focus must also be on putting the country back on the path of development.”

CAR is the fifth poorest country in the world, where average life expectancy is just 49 years, maternal mortality in 2013 was 890 per 100 000 births and under-five mortality in 2010 was almost 16%. The fighting has exacerbated this long-term poverty and suffering. Violence has adversely affected economic livelihoods for 96% of the population according to a recent survey.

UNDP says that investing in resilience, recovery and longer term development initiatives now will ensure that any peace brokered later is more likely to be sustainable, potentially saving the international community millions in humanitarian aid down the road.

In Brussels today, UNDP is revealing its two-year scheme for tackling the crisis as part of broader UN activities. UNDP has initially asked for $9,5-million to help stabiliSe the most conflict affected communities.

Its plans include fixing damaged infrastructure, such as water reservoirs, sewers, bridges and local clinics, creating emergency employment and providing loans so affected communities are able to receive an income.

UNDP also plans on running radio programmes to promote tolerance and dissuade people from violence, protecting women and girls from violence, and establishing systems for mediating disputes in villages.

Eventually, the aim is to establish legal aid centres, mobile courts and a mobile judiciary, police and gendarmerie unit that is able to prosecute crimes and investigate human rights violations.