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CAR Emergency Food Supplies Very Low

  • Joe DeCapua

Christian refugees living in makeshift shelters near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014, as they try to escape from the deepening divisions between the country's Muslim minority and Christian majority. Christian refug
The World Food Program said Thursday emergency supplies in Central African Republic are extremely low. The U.N. agency has not been able to replenish its food stocks due to fear of insecurity.

The last trucks carrying emergency food aid from Cameroon arrived on Monday -- 10 trucks with 300 tons of supplies, and not nearly enough to bring stocks up to where they should be. The WFP estimates it’s distributing aid to about 200-thousand people in Bangui, Bossangoa, Bouar and the surrounding villages.

“We still have the issue of food not coming through from the border. We’re hoping that there will be another convoy hopefully by the beginning of next week, but it’s still unclear. So, at the moment we are looking very seriously at the option of starting airlifts. Because our stocks are running really low this is the option that we are contemplating now,” said Alexis Masciarelli, WFP spokesman in the CAR capital.

But airlifts are much more expensive than truck convoys. And a lot of food aid is sitting in trucks at the Cameroonian border, 600 kilometers from Bangui.

“At the moment we have 43 trucks at the border with over a thousand tons of food,” he said.

Drivers are refusing to make the trip.

“That’s still the argument,” said Masciarelli, “That it’s too unsafe for drivers to go through basically on their own. And we’re trying to convince them that it is safe enough to go with an armed convoy.”

An armed escort was the only way drivers agreed to take part in the convoy on January 27th.

“We had two staff on the convoy that came on Monday. And they told me that the road is a succession of abandoned, looted villages – of check points from militia groups. So they managed to go through because they had an armed convoy organized by the African force that is here, the MISCA” he said.

African and French forces are trying to restore order and protect civilians and humanitarian workers. They’ll soon be joined by an EU force of several hundred. Armed Muslim and Christian groups have been battling since early December. About a million people have been internally displaced. Tens of thousands of others have fled to neighboring countries.

Asked when food supplies might run out of if trucks or planes do not arrive soon, Masciarelli said, “It’s difficult to tell you one, two or three days because it depends how much we give out everyday. But we really have only a few days left – maximum one week left.”

WFP officials at the Rome headquarters and in Africa will decide when an airlift would be conducted if truck convoys remained stalled at the Cameroonian border. If some trucks do get through, the WFP could still opt to fly in some supplies to replenish stocks more quickly.