The Central African Republic (CAR), a landlocked country of just four million people, has the most grim human development indicators in the region. A least developed country (LDC), it is ranked 178 out of 179 countries in the 2008 UNDP Human Development Index.
Repeated political and economic crises - including four coups in the last decade - have devastated the country and have resulted in an overall deterioration of living conditions. The country lacks basic services, and hospitals have only the most rudimentary equipment and medicine. The security situation is precarious especially in the north, characterized by the flow of arms and acts of violence. OCHA currently estimates that 85,000 of the more than 200,000 IDPs have returned to their villages of origin or resettled elsewhere while there are 108,000 still too scared to return.
The scarcity of food resources lies at the heart of this vicious poverty cycle. Though the country's potential agricultural output is more than adequate to feed the entire population, the incessant burning of villages, agricultural fields and food storehouses by armed groups has terrorized local farmers to the point where agricultural production is very limited.
The UNICEF multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS), which was carried out in December 2006, indicates that the chronic malnutrition rate stands at 30 percent and that global acute malnutrition has reached ten percent. At 6.2 percent, the country has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the sub-region. The UNDP Human Development report shows life expectancy is 39 years, and has decreased by an average of five months per year since 1988.
WFP assistance aims at improving the living conditions of the most needy, by targeting children and adults in the education sector, as well as expectant and nursing mothers, infants and young children in the health and nutrition sector, a large number of IDPs, people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, and tuberculosis (TB) patients. All WFP activities ensure that at least 50 percent of beneficiaries are female. Assistance is implemented through three different types of operations:
- Protracted relief and recovery operation. Through a relief component, WFP provides assistance to 97,000 vulnerable IDPs and 56,500 malnourished children, mothers of malnourished children and pregnant and nursing women. Additionally, 3,000 Darfurian refugees and crises-affected people are supported through general food distributions, and 85,000 children in the bush receive assistance through emergency school meals. Through the recovery component, WFP assists people living with HIV/AIDS and supports food-for-agriculture and food-for-work/training activities which include community infrastructure improvement/ development activities.
- Development operation. On average, WFP assists 100,000 primary school children during each school year under the school meals programme and 30,000 children and pregnant and nursing women suffering from malnutrition through mother and child health activities.
- Special Operations. WFP aims at ensuring that emergency food aid reaches beneficiaries through the augmentation of logistics capacity that includes: fleet augmentation, provision of increased storage capacity in the field, provision of temporary office and living accommodations for WFP staff and ad hoc road repairs. WFP also provides a reliable and safe mode of transportation to the CAR humanitarian community and donors.