As violence continues to spread terror and displacement in the northwest of the Central African Republic, WFP has urged the international community to support its food operations in a region which is already volatile due to fighting in Chad and Sudan.
We appeal to the authorities to allow humanitarian organisations to continue our work without obstruction
WFP Country Director, Jean-Charles Dei
WFP is particularly concerned by the situation in the heavily populated area – where an estimated 150,000 people are believed to be living in the bush, surviving on little more than the wild food that grows around them.
The northwest is normally the breadbasket of CAR, but since being plunged into violence, prices for staple foods such as manioc and cassava have risen sharply, causing hardship elsewhere across a country where most people live in appalling poverty.
A recent WFP mission into the region around Paoua witnessed many people running in fear at the sound of approaching vehicles.
Several villages have been burnt to the ground, others deserted, the inhabitants having fled into the bush, living in the open sometimes several kilometres away.
Diets are extremely poor, people are quickly falling ill with virtually no healthcare and many schools are closed or barely functioning.
“The world must wake up to the reality and extent of the suffering here in Central Africa,” said WFP Country Director, Jean-Charles Dei.
“It’s hard to comprehend just how traumatised and desperate many of those affected by the fighting have become. This is a very real humanitarian crisis in one of the most forgotten corners of the world.”
WFP requires US$11 million in order to ensure its operations in CAR for the next eight months, assuming the situation does not deteriorate further.
Conflict in northwestern CAR has pushed nearly 50,000 people across the border into refugee camps in southern Chad in the past four years.
Living in terror
But WFP is especially concerned about those that remain, living in terror in the Central African bush. Many have been unable to return to their villages for over a year.
Recent attacks have targeted food supplies, just a few weeks after the harvest, leaving villagers with almost nothing on which to survive until they can harvest again, late in 2007.
The situation has placed major constraints on WFP operations and those of its NGO partners.
Emergency distributions to 25,000 of the most vulnerable people around the town of Paoua are currently suspended due to fighting.
“We appeal to the authorities to allow humanitarian organisations to continue our work without obstruction. Our only concern is to provide life-saving assistance to those who need it most.
"If we cannot do this and circumstances deteriorate further, it will cost more in the long term – both in human and financial terms,” said Dei.
The lack of NGO partners with a presence in the northwest further hampers the delivery of food aid, with only Médecins sans Frontières, COOPI and a number of Catholic missions providing assistance to the desperately needy.
WFP is convinced that more humanitarian partners are urgently required to assist.