BANGUI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched an airlift operation to deliver life-saving food supplies to 18,000 people in Zemio, 1000 km East of the capital Bangui. The region is on the brink of a severe food and nutritional crisis, due to a combination of insecurity and transport infrastructure challenges, which hamper humanitarian access to the area.
“The humanitarian situation in Zemio is perilous and can quickly descend into a catastrophe, if we do not act now,” said Gian Carlo Cirri, WFP Representative and Country Director in C.A.R. “Partners on the ground say women and children do not have enough food to eat and people are living in dire conditions.”
A spike in violence in and around Zemio has curtailed movement, with people unable to access markets. Most have lost their food reserves due to the inability to reach their farms because of violence.
The airlift is the first step of a more comprehensive plan to address the humanitarian situation in the south-east of the country. WFP will provide food to internally displaced people (IDPs) and the hosts who have been sheltering them. Specialised nutritious food will be distributed to families with young children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
WFP normally moves supplies into Zemio via Obo by land from neighbouring Uganda and by river from the capital Bangui via Bangassou, but a broken bridge and an out-of-service ferries have made this impossible. WFP is looking into alternative options to move food by river while engineers from the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) are working to repair the ferry.
Long-running conflict is having devastating effects on people in the C.A.R. Up to 2.1 million people, almost half of the country’s 4.7 million population, are food insecure according the National Food Security Assessment (NFSA) released last January. A recent national nutritional survey (SMART) also shows 7.1 percent of global acute malnutrition (GAM) among children aged 6 to 59 months. The severe acute malnutrition (SAM) exceeds the 2 percent emergency threshold at national level and in ten prefectures out of sixteen.
The Government of C.A.R. and 14 non-state armed groups signed a peace agreement on 6 February under the auspices of the African Union with the support of the United Nations.
WFP needs US$ 87 million to provide lifesaving assistance through general food distribution, cash transfers, and enhanced nutrition programmes to around one million people in 2019.