CAR: 600 000 face food shortage

2010-08-24 16:50

Libreville - About 600 000 people in the Central African Republic could run out of food because the UN World Food Programme has not got enough money to feed them, the UN agency announced on Tuesday.

"WFP has a $15m shortfall over the next eight months to provide food assistance to some 600 000 food insecure and malnourished people mainly in the conflict-affected north," the WFP said in a statement sent to AFP in Libreville.

Most of the people at risk live in the north of the country, in a region known as "the conflict triangle" by aid agencies, which also includes the east of Chad and west Sudan, home to numerous refugees and displaced people.

"New needs have emerged since late 2009 with an influx of 17 500 Congolese refugees (from northern Democratic Republic of Congo) in Lobaye region," the statement added.

"WFP provides assistance in the eastern regions of Mbomou, Haut-Mbomou and Haute Kotto to 9 100 refugees from Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and 14 000 people forced to flee from their homes by Lord's Resistance Army attacks," it said.

Wracked by conflict

The LRA is a Ugandan rebel force which is considered one of the most brutal in the world, currently active in the CAR, northern DRC and Sudan.

"The additional needs stretched our resources to the limit," said WFP Country Director Sitta Kai-Kai. "If funds are not available in the next two months, we will have to reduce rations for some of the 100 000 refugees and displaced and even entirely suspend food assistance for others."

"This would escalate tensions with the host population as pressure grows on local resources," Kai-Kai added.

The Central African Republic is among the poorest nations in the world and ranked 178th out of 179 countries in the 2008 UN Human Development Index. For years it has also been wracked by conflict, but most of the rebel forces have signed up to an ongoing peace process with the government.

"WFP faces running out of food in November," the agency warned. "It is crucial that new contributions are made soon because it takes four to five months for food to arrive in the CAR, a landlocked country. WFP in particular needs cash so it could buy food locally as well as from neighbouring Cameroon."