Bangui, Feb 28 (IANS/AKI) The United Nations World Food Programme said on Wednesday it has begun air-lifting life-saving food supplies to 18,000 vulnerable people in the Central African Republic’s remote, conflict-hit Zemio region, where famine is looming.
“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 CAR.
“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 – which lies 1,000 km east of the capital Bangui – has preventing people reaching local markets and most have no food supplies as violence has preventing them getting to their farms, WFP said.
The airlift is the first step of a more comprehensive plan to address the humanitarian situation in south-east CAR, WFP said.
WFP will provide food to people who have fled their homes and hosts who have been sheltering them, while specialised high-nutrition food will be distributed to families with young children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
A damaged bridge and out-of-service ferries have made it impossible for the WFP to get supplies into Zemio by land from neighbouring Uganda and by river from the capital Bangui, the UN agency said.
WFP said it 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 to a national food security assessment in January and the proportion of infants with severe acute malnutrition exceeds the 2 percent emergency threshold at national level and in 10 prefectures out of 16, WFP reported.
WFP said it needs $87 million to provide food, cash transfers, and enhanced nutrition programmes to around one million people in CAR this year.
CAR’s central government and 14 non-state armed groups signed a peace agreement on February 6 under the auspices of the African Union and the UN. The 30-page peace pact, negotiated in Sudan, is the eighth since deadly inter-religious and inter-communal fighting began in the impoverished country in 2013.