A displaced woman receives food rations at a WFP distribution site near Bangui airport in the Central African Republic on 13 December 2013. (Copyright: WFP/Ingela Christiansson)
WFP continued to distribute food on Saturday to 40,000 people who have camped out at the airport in Bangui after being forced to flee their homes by the recent outbreak of fighting in the Central African Republic’s capital.
Not including the distribution which started Friday, WFP has distributed food to over 68,000 people in Bangui since the outbreak of violence in the capital last week.
In Bangui and elsewhere in the country, fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis in which food is a top priority.
“It’s a bad situation, very precarious,” said WFP Country Director Houssainou Taal, who spent several hours at Bangui airport on Friday, monitoring food distributions. “People are sleeping outside, with little access to water or shelter.”
Taal said he had also heard shots fired while he was at the airport and even seen bodies being carried away.
“We’ve already distributed food [at the airport] for 30,000 people. In total we will reach 40,000 with this distribution. We’ll carry on tomorrow if don’t finish today,” he continued, adding that staff would also be taking food to other sites near the airport.
One of the people Taal met at the airport was a woman carrying a small child who she said was sick. “Getting this food today is a really saving us. We haven’t eaten anything for days," she told him
About 127,000 displaced people are gathered at different sites in Bangui alone, and it is expected that the numbers will increase further. WFP is giving families rations of maize meal or rice, split peas, vegetable oil and salt.
“We’re bringing in more food. We have food stocks but they’re running out quickly. We’re bringing more from Cameroon,” Taal said.
Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed in Central African Republic since the outbreak of conflict at the beginning of the month and insecurity makes it harder to deliver food to communities that need it.
“Reaching people in Bangui is not a problem,” said Taal. “But getting to the people in the countryside is challenging. The situation upcountry is tough. There are still reports of killing.”
In Bossangoa, in the north-east of the country, WFP currently helps displaced people at three different sites. Activities were disrupted for few days by the most recent wave of violence, however assistance has since resumed.
With seasonal harvesting in some parts of the country severely disrupted by the conflict, WFP is scaling up to reach more than a million people in the Central African Republic in 2014.