The conflict began in December 2012, when the rebel Seleka coalition occupied more than half of the country’s territory. Despite a cease-fire agreement reached with the government in January 2013, the coalition seized the capital in late March, pushing President Francois Bozize out of the country and installing Michel Djotodia as president. Members of an auto-defense militia group, the anti-Balaka, retaliated by attacking Muslim villages and areas in main cities, causing hundreds of deaths and forcing people—especially Muslim communities—to flee. Djotodia was forced to resign in January 2014, and Catherine Samba-Panza, the former mayor of Bangui, was elected by parliament to head a transitional government.
Even before the crisis began, the food security situation in C.A.R. was dire. A comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis (CFSVA, 2009) indicates that 30 percent of the population was food-insecure. The global acute malnutrition rate among children under five was 7.4 percent, while chronic malnutrition for the same age group was at 41 percent, levels considered “serious” (MICS, UNICEF, 2010).
The food security situation has worsened significantly since the start of the crisis. 1.6 million people, representing 35 percent of the population, are in urgent need of food assistance. 60 percent of households reported having exhausted their food stocks in December 2013, and 90 percent said they consumed just one meal a day (MIRA, January 2014).
According to a joint WFP/FAO assessment (March 2014), the economy in C.A.R. has severely contracted due to the crisis. GDP declined by nearly 30 percent in 2013, and trading has severely reduced—including a 60 percent decrease in exports—as Muslim communities that normally control trade and transport have fled. The main wholesale market in Bangui was near collapse in March 2014; 70 percent of traders have left the market, and food stocks are reported to be around 20 percent of pre-crisis levels. Agricultural production also decreased in 2013, with levels almost 40 percent down from the previous year. 60 percent of farmers indicated that their crop production was significantly reduced.
The Central African Republic (C.A.R.) is a sparsely populated and landlocked country of 4.4 million inhabitants. Despite its wealth in mineral and natural resources, C.A.R. ranks 180 out of 187 countries in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index. Continued socio-political instability—a consequence of rebellions, coups and inter-ethnic fighting during the last three decades—has hampered development. This has resulted in a deterioration of basic social and economic infrastructure and has forced many school-age children out of school. The national net school enrolment of primary school children is 63 percent.
Many armed conflicts have caused large-scale internal displacement over the past two decade in C.A.R. This latest crisis pushed more than 350,000 people out of the country, mainly across the border to Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Despite the government’s efforts to restore peace and invest in development, the country still struggles with continued violence and conflict.