The Central African Republic (C.A.R.) ranks second to last in the 2018 Human Development Index, with around 79 percent of the country’s 4.7 million population estimated to be living in poverty. Almost 3 million people residing in the C.A.R. require humanitarian assistance. Low productivity, weak markets and high gender inequality are all contributing factors, made worse by recurrent cycles of political crisis and insecurity that hit women in rural communities hardest.
In 2013, a political coup saw intense sectarian violence and caused a 36 percent collapse in GDP. The protracted internal armed conflict has devastated the country since 2014 continuing to force people to flee their homes and causing a severe breakdown in basic social services. Renewed violence since 2017 has led to further displacement with over one million people – one in four citizens - displaced across the country or sheltering in neighbouring countries.
Although a new president and general assembly were elected in March 2016, large areas of the territory are still controlled by armed groups and the security situation remains volatile. While the signing of a Peace Agreement between the Government and 14-armed groups, on 06 February 2019, has improved the stability of certain areas, the humanitarian situation continues to be critical.
With livelihoods disrupted by conflict, food production and household purchasing power have weakened. Rising food prices mean that 65 to 75 percent of disposable income is now spent on food, and, according to the latest IPC Report, 45 percent of the population (2.1 million people) are food insecure. Of these, 85 percent are severely food insecure (1.8 million). Around 40 percent of children aged between 6 months and 5 years are stunted, their growth limited by lack of nutrients in their diet.
In collaboration with other humanitarian organizations, WFP has been providing emergency food and nutrition assistance to conflict-affected people in the C.A.R, reaching some 920,000 people in 2018.
The expansion of WFP’s response includes scaling up its general food distributions and nutrition activities (both prevention and treatment) to include targeting children under 5 as well as pregnant and -nursing mothers to tackle childhood malnutrition at its source.
WFP’s crisis response work is continuing under the prevailing circumstances while its focus is gradually shifting towards developing and supporting the Government’s own Zero Hunger policies and social security programmes. By strengthening the country’s capacity for leading future crisis response and resilience-building activities, such as Food for Assets, school feeding and Purchase for Progress (P4P), WFP aims for a gradual transfer of responsibilities to the Government in the coming years.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Central African Republic
Access to food
WFP helps vulnerable communities meet their basic food and nutrition needs by distributing food – including specialized nutritious foods - and/or cash. As areas become more stable, refugees and others affected by the crisis will be helped to return home and focus will shift towards helping them recover their livelihoods. School feeding programmes improve children’s nutrition and school attendance in areas facing food insecurity.
To help build long-term resilience, WFP is working to improve the nutrition of vulnerable groups including children, people with disabilities and HIV patients. WFP is also implementing an operational pilot to improve coverage and quality for the treatment of wasting in children under 5 and pregnant and nursing women.
As part of its revised response operation, 36,000 children under 5 will receive fortified food each day, part of a programme designed to treat and prevent malnutrition. This programme also supports vaccination, better water and sanitation, health training and women’s empowerment.
WFP is helping to support smallholder farmers in restoring and enhancing their productive assets, aiming to improve productivity and food security, as well as building resilience to future crises. Farmers receive transfers to grow crops and gain some independence, as well as technical assistance and market opportunities to improve their incomes and food and nutrition security. School meals and general food distributions programmes purchase from smallholders; in 2018 benefiting 46,000 farmers (60 percent of them women).
Working with other UN agencies and government institutions, WFP aims to strengthen national humanitarian and early recovery capacities, support the Government in developing and delivering its own Zero Hunger policies and social protection programmes, which in turn will also incorporate initiatives to improve gender equality. These activities will be supported by detailed data and the development of monitoring and accountability systems.
Long distances, poor infrastructure, insecurity and the absence of commercial airlines stand in the way of achieving Zero Hunger in the C.A.R. To improve humanitarian access, communications and logistics, WFP runs the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) and leads the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) and Logistics Cluster to ensure safe, reliable and efficient access to populations in need.