The World Food Program warns the Central African Republic is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity due to conflict, population displacement, widespread poverty, and underemployment.
WFP officials say they anticipate a sharp increase in commodity prices this year and extending well into 2023. They say the price of rice is expected to rise by 30%, wheat flour by 67%, and vegetable oil by a staggering 70%.
That, they note, will make staple food products unaffordable for millions of people, leading to more hunger and more distress as people are forced to resort to extreme measures to put food on the table.
WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says 2.2 million people are food insecure in C.A.R.
“The figure might not shock you out of your seats but when you look at the population size, that is nearly half the population of the Central African Republic," said Phiri. "And the country now joins the league of nations, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan with the highest proportion of acutely food insecure.”
As less food becomes available, Phiri says more children will suffer from malnutrition.
UNICEF says the number of severely acutely malnourished children under age five is expected to rise in the country by 10% this year to 69,000. Children suffering from the condition are at risk of dying if they do not get the right medical and nutritional care.
Phiri says the WFP is struggling to provide the food and specialized treatment needed by children, women, and other vulnerable people in the C.A.R. and a lack of money is hindering those efforts.
“Our costs of operating are skyrocketing," said Phiri. "The United Nations World Food Program is appealing urgently for $68.4 million. Without immediate funding, food and nutrition insecurity will only increase for millions of people.”
Phiri says the challenges facing the C.A.R. are well documented and pre-date the crisis in Ukraine. But noting the impact of the war on rising commodity and fuel prices, he says humanitarian assistance will be required well beyond this year and into 2023.