BANGUI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) began to airlift food into the Central African Republic (CAR) today as the country faces a deepening hunger crisis with its roads too insecure to move in enough food for 1.25 million people affected by violence.
A WFP-chartered Boeing 747 cargo plane from Douala in neighbouring Cameroon landed in Bangui with 82 metric tons of rice. In total, 1,800 metric tons of cereals – sufficient to feed 150,000 people for a month – are due to arrive by air on about 25 flights over the next four weeks.
The food will be distributed to people forced to flee their homes. Food is also urgently needed to be pre-positioned across CAR before the start of the rainy season in May when many roads will be impassable. In addition, the annual “lean season” when hunger usually starts to peak is expected to start as early as this month.
“With the cycle of violence unstopped and the economy disrupted, CAR faces an even harsher nutrition and food crisis. These airlifts are a lifeline so we can bring food to the most vulnerable wherever we can reach them,” said WFP Regional Director for West Africa Denise Brown.
“We are launching these airlifts at a high cost but we have no choice. It is vital for us to be able to meet immediate needs for life-saving food for people affected by violence while we replenish WFP stocks in remote places during the lean season and before the rainy season.”
Insecurity has had a disastrous impact on WFP’s food stocks since the start of the year. At one stage, 51 trucks carrying WFP food were blocked at the Cameroon border for weeks. With escorts by troops from the African-led International Support Mission in CAR (MISCA), two large road convoys with WFP food aboard have arrived in Bangui but the route remains too unreliable to transport all the food assistance needed.
In addition, WFP has only received 27 percent of the nearly US$107 million it needs to assist 1.25 million people in CAR until August. Urgent new funding is needed for displaced people to receive food in the immediate and for some food aid to be pre-positioned before May.
“It is not only the amount of funding, but the timing of contributions that is critical if we hope to head off a devastating nutrition crisis during the lean season and rains,” said Brown. “We need more contributions now or even much larger numbers of people will go hungry.”
With escalating violence since early December, WFP distributes food to all communities affected when secure access is possible. In December 2013, WFP and its partners distributed food to nearly 260,000 displaced and severely vulnerable people. In January, food assistance was provided to 280,000 people in the Bangui, Bouar, Bossangoa and Kaga-Bandoro areas.
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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP reaches more than 90 million people with food assistance in 80 countries each year.
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