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WFP trying to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Central African Republic

(Vatican Radio) An escalation of violence in the Central African Republic and the exodus of many traders has led to massive food insecurity in the country.

The United Nations World Food Programme – WFP – is airlifting tonnes of rice and cereal as many roads are dangerous and unpassable and are destined to become even more so as the rainy season approaches.

Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to WFP spokesperson Frances Kennedy who explains that although the ongoing violence is a challenge for staff and partners on the ground, a programme is in place to move in enough food for 1.25 million people affected by violence…

Listen to the interview… RealAudioMP3

Kennedy says that the WFP is very concerned about the situation in CAR. She explains it is providing food assistance to some 280.000 displaced or extremely vulnerable people. This – she says - in the capital Bangui and in towns like Bor and Bosangua. She says the food distributions are continuing – but what they are particularly concerned about is a looming food security crisis for various reasons: one of these is that it’s extremely difficult to get supplies into CAR. She says WFP has managed to bring some supplies by truck from Cameroon with a military escort, but that is not enough for the quantities required. So – she says – WFP has set up an airlift that goes each day from Cameroon to Bangui to provide food, “not just for now, but for the weeks and months ahead because in CAR we are going towards the rainy season and the hunger season – the lean season”.

So – Kennedy says – “it is important that while we are feeding people right now, we must get food in and move it and get it into place ahead because at a certain point the roads there will no longer be passable because of the rains and not just because of insecurity, which is such a problem at the moment”.

Kennedy says that the continuing violence and consequential insecurity is a major challenge for aid workers in CAR. Because of insecurity on the roads the normal routes of supply are disrupted; it also makes it difficult for aid assistants on the ground and the partners they work with to stick to schedules and plans as “they have to assess day by day whether it is safe to have a food distribution in a certain area”.

“So this is all very challenging for the people on the ground because they see growing numbers of people who have been pushed out of their homes, who have left their fields, their animals and there is a great deal of fear.” She says that many people are still hiding in the bush because they are fearful for their lives after the violence that has taken place there.

Kennedy confirms that many of the people who have fled the country were business people and traders. “So she says the markets in the capital are vastly depleted. Even if residents feel it is safe, even if they have the money, there is very little food available for them in the markets because the violence has had a huge impact on the economy”.

Kennedy says WFP is very much in need of extra funding to get aid into CAR and says it is making a strong appeal to donor countries that have supported WFP in Car. She says it is important they realise that “we need to act now” - food must get into the country now because the months ahead with the rainy season could develop into a major humanitarian emergency.