Escalating conflict prevents life-saving aid reaching two million people in the Central African Republic

A Concern health screening clinic for children under-five in CAR
Concern's Nutrition Manager Justin M'pia demonstrates to community health workers how to accurately record a child's height during a screening training session at Gbadengue Health Facility, in the Central African Republic. Photo: Chris de Bode

Concern Worldwide today warned that the escalating conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) is preventing humanitarian organisations from reaching an estimated 2.3 million people currently in dire need of food and assistance.

CAR is one of the world’s poorest and hungriest countries with half the population in need of assistance even prior to the latest conflict. With militia controlling large swathes of the west, central and eastern parts of the country, and armed conflict with government forces escalating since elections in December, humanitarian organisations are struggling to get access or supplies to communities.

“Less than 40% of non-government organisations’ (NGOs) operations are currently continuing due to a lack of safe access,” Concern’s Country Director Elise Ponson said. “This is in a country where almost all basic services such as healthcare, education and food assistance outside of the capital are provided by NGOs.”

Concern is continuing to maintain its operation in one town, but it is very difficult to assess the scale of the humanitarian needs in most rural areas as it is not safe to travel by road, Ms Ponson said.

Food Shortages

Insecurity along the main supply route between the capital, Bangui, and the Cameroon border has resulted in 1,600 trucks being stuck at the border crossing.  These include 500 trucks of humanitarian aid.

“One of our key food suppliers confirmed yesterday that their stores are empty,” Ms Ponson said.  “Even if we had food, the current insecurity means we cannot transport it to communities that need it.” 

Food shortages have resulted in the price of staple foods such as sorghum soaring by 50% in recent weeks in Bangui. “Our staff – who would be deemed to be middle income because they work for an NGO – are telling us that the price rises are unbearable,” she said.

Tipping Point

CAR is currently at a ‘tipping point’ Ms Ponson said.  “If all sides can respect international humanitarian law and ensure safe access for humanitarian organisations, then we can quickly return to providing humanitarian assistance, and recovery and resilience programmes. However, if the conflict is prolonged this could quickly develop into an even more severe humanitarian crisis.”

Even prior to the latest upsurge in violence, UN agencies and NGOs estimated that 2.8 million of CAR’s 4.7 million population were in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.  Of these, they estimated that 2.3 million would be facing crisis or emergency (pre-famine) levels of food needs by May 2021.

“The massive humanitarian challenge facing us is clear for all to see, and it’s worsening by the day. Humanitarian organisations are on the ground and desperate to continue programmes, but we need a secure environment in order to access communities if we are to prevent a bad situation from rapidly developing into a major humanitarian crisis.”

For media queries or to arrange interviews please contact Hannah Myerson, Senior Communications Officer, at [email protected].

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