By Dawn Trump, International Film & Photography Manager, Save the Children
Is it a country or a region? That’s one of the questions I was asked before heading to the Central African Republic (CAR). This is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, yet CAR doesn’t get the international attention it needs - and the complexity of the conflict taking place there doesn’t help.
The reality is that the situation remains dire. Since the fighting began, over 2,000 people – including both women and children – have been killed in sectarian clashes across the country and some 2.2 million people – half of CAR’s population – are now in need of humanitarian assistance.
Flying in vital aid
In Malaga, Spain, last Tuesday, approximately 48 tonnes of essential supplies destined for the capital, Bangui, were loaded on to a relief plane commissioned by Save the Children.
We were delivering essential medical equipment and supplies, storage fridges for life-saving drugs, generators, satellite dishes and cars.This coordinated relief effort – the result of an impressive cross-Europe logistics operation – is the largest single delivery of aid from Save the Children to CAR since the fighting began.
Once the plane was loaded, we began our journey to this landlocked country.
No choice but to fly
Lack of fuel, risk to drivers travelling from Cameroon and a closed border with Chad mean that air travel is currently the only way to import such huge quantities of life-saving aid into CAR.
On arrival in Bangui, the cargo was unloaded from the plane in no time, thanks to our incredible team on the ground.
Within a couple of hours, around 20 tonnes of medical aid, 11 vehicles and other equipment were en route to a warehouse where they would be checked and divided up for distribution to various Save the Children bases across the country.
Operating on a shoestring budget
The logistics team made this huge operation look easy. But it’s anything but – CAR is one of the toughest operational environments for aid workers in the world.
Even from the airport, the need for these supplies is obvious. A couple of hundred metres from the runway, nearly 40,000 people – an estimated half of them children – live in a makeshift camp.
The conditions are, as you would expect, dirty, cramped and noisy. Save the Children’s aid will help thousands of children affected by the crisis.
But with the onset of the rainy season and no sign of an end to the violence there is, unfortunately, still much to do.