Central African Republic facing famine


Endemic violence in Central African Republic is pushing the country toward famine with 63% of the population already needing emergency aid, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in the country said.

Central African Republic (CAR) has been in chaos since 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted the president, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Fighting uprooted more than a million people. UN humanitarian chief in the country, Najat Rochdi, said 2.9 million of the 4.6 million population needed aid, and 1.6 million were in acute need.

In August, a food security survey assessed for the first time, parts of CAR were in an “emergency”. That is level four in a globally recognised food security classification system, where five is “catastrophe/famine”.
“If the situation remains the same and people are not going back to work their fields… it means yes, in a few years we will have a famine in Central African Republic,” Rochdi told reporters in Geneva.

Such a catastrophic scenario would not arise immediately, but could threaten hundreds of thousands, she said.

Violence continues in the south and east and Rochdi said the United Nations had to act as a government to keep basic services running. Part of her job was identifying areas now stable enough to hand over to local officials, so UN staff could be freed up for more urgent work.

People uprooted in CAR include 620,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and 570,000 refugees in neighbouring countries, mostly Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad.

In some areas, security was improving, allowing displaced people to come home and unaccustomed access for aid workers.

In other areas, attacks on IDP sites were putting things “back to square one”, Rochdi said.

IDP camps at Batangafo in north-west and Alindao in the south were torched, obliterating years of work and leaving thousands of people with nothing.

Rochdi said residents of both camps were Christian it was simplistic to see it as Muslim-on-Christian violence, since Muslim and Christian militias were involved in both attacks.

Ordinary people never talk about hating Christians or Muslims and want to live in peace, but armed groups often justify their actions as vengeance for killings of particular groups, producing an endless spiral of violence.