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Half of population in Central African Republic need aid: U.N.

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nearly half of the population in war-torn Central African Republic - more than two million people - need humanitarian aid despite progress in stabilizing the country since it plunged into chaos in 2013, a United Nations official said on Monday.

The country has been plagued by conflict since March 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, triggering reprisals by Christian militias. Despite a February election seen as a step toward reconciliation, fighting still flares.

Deadly outbreaks of violence have erupted across the country since September, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

These spells of violence, and attacks on humanitarian agencies, have restricted the delivery of assistance to those most in need, aid groups said last month.

“Humanitarian efforts are critical to save lives of people who are among the poorest and most forgotten on this planet,” Fabrizio Hochschild, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Central African Republic, said in a statement.

Nearly $400 million is needed to fund Central African Republic’s 2017 humanitarian response plan and provide aid to 1.6 million people next year, according to OCHA.

International donors promised 2.06 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in longer term aid last week, seeking to cement a recovery from three years of sectarian strife that has left the country largely dependent on the 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force.

Donors hope these funds can provide housing and establish land and property rights to allow refugees to return home.

Some 400,000 people have been internally displaced, and nearly half a million have fled to neighboring countries like Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, OCHA said.

Yet more and more people who have been uprooted within the country are going home, according to several aid agencies.

The latest clashes in the country broke out last week and saw militia fighters hunt down and massacre members of the Fulani ethnic group during violence that killed 85 civilians, according to the U.N.’s top genocide official.

The violence in Bria - a town 600 km (370 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui - was the worst instance of ethnic killing since France ended its peacekeeping mission last month, leaving security largely in the hands of U.N. peacekeepers.

“More uniformed personnel is not the answer on its own,” Hochschild said at a briefing in Geneva. “We need political dialogue, we need reconciliation, we need development, we need generation of employment, and we need humanitarian aid.”