CAR

Central African Republic: UN agencies send aid convoy to troubled northeast

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Three United Nations agencies have sent a seven-truck relief convoy from the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) to the troubled northeast of the country, where recent rebel attacks on villages and clashes with Government forces have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sparked a widening humanitarian crisis.

The convoy, organized by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with the French non-governmental organization (NGO) Triangle Generation, left Bangui on Saturday.

Bound for Vakaga prefecture on the border with Sudan's war-torn Darfur region and Chad, it is carrying 41 metric tons of food from WFP, seed supplies from FAO and educational materials from FAO.

Triangle Generation will distribute the supplies to populations around the towns of Birao, Ouanda and Djalle, which were some of the hardest hit in recent rebel attacks.

Last month, almost the entire population of 14,000 people fled Birao following the attack by the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), in which more than 700 houses were burned and vital stocks of food and seeds for the upcoming planting season were destroyed. The burning of houses by rebels and other militants has become a widespread tactic in the CAR.

The convoy is part of follow-up efforts to an inter-agency assessment mission to Birao and surrounding areas at the end of last month.

Nearly 300,000 Central Africans have had to flee their homes over the past year, either to become internally displaced or to live as refugees in neighbouring countries, because of the escalating fighting, banditry and rebel attacks. Many people are living in the open bush, too afraid to return to their former homes.

The UN has so far received just over $17 million of the $54.5 million it is appealing for to fund humanitarian relief work across the CAR, one of the world's poorest countries, this year.