Humanitarian Crisis in Central African Republic

Published on 15 August 2013

Viviane Soutoutpou with her youngest child. After spending four months in hiding, WFP food distributions have helped support her and her family. WFP/Judith Melby

WFP provides vital food assistance in Central African Republic. It is scaling up operations to assist the most vulnerable populations caught up in a catastrophic situation.

WFP is responding rapidly to the growing crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR), a landlocked country with few roads or natural resources.

The scale up in operations comes amid growing concerns that the ongoing insecurity is fuelling hunger among people who have been forced to flee their homes and farms.

In August 2013 WFP made a monthly food distribution on the road between Damara and Sibut, some 100 kilometres north of the capital, Bangui. This is the road the rebels swept down in March when they captured Bangui. Residents of the villages along the road fled to the forest in terror; their homes were burnt and looted and fields stripped of plants.

Reaching these vulnerable people is one of WFP’s biggest challenges. Days before the distribution WFP staff came to area to spread the news about the upcoming distribution.

Viviane Soutoutpou, 30, ventured out of the forest a few weeks earlier, after spending four months hiding with her six children aged between two months and 15. Her husband died of malaria in the forest a month before.

"This food is a big help, without my husband it is very difficult to work in our field.  My children help but they are all still young," she says.

WFP gave monthly rations to 88 households consisting of 12 kilograms maize meal, 1.8 pulses, 6 kilograms oil and salt. WFP currently reaches 200,000 throughout the country and assists 17,800 in this area.

Gilbert Sibango, 45, had a terrifying encounter with the rebels. He had three goats and refused to hand them over to the rebels.

"When I stood up to the rebels, they shot my eldest son, who was married with two children.  They did it in front of all my family, my wife and my five other children."

Gilbert fled to the forest with his family and stayed there for two months.  He has lost his spring harvest but is hoping to plant some peanuts and maize for the harvest late in the year.

"Until then, this food from WFP will keep us alive," he says.

Gilbert says there are still some people in the forest but many people came out because of the announcements of the distribution by WFP.

Most of the schools and health centres in the area were looted. Although many of the teachers also fled, schools plan to reopen in October.  WFP will provide emergency school meals; this will help prevent malnutrition and reduce the risk of the children being recruited by militias.

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about the author

Judith Melby

West Africa Regional Public Information Officer

Judith is a journalist with about 20 years of experience. She has worked with WFP in Dakar, Addis Abeba, Khartoum, Abidjan and Kinshasa.