CAR: MSF Distributes Food to Displaced People in the North

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams distributed nearly 100 tons of emergency food supplies to more than 10,000 people in northern Central African Republic (CAR) in recent weeks due to the lack of sufficient aid to people affected by armed conflict in the country.

Since December 22, MSF teams distributed food in seven locations where displaced people are sheltering in the areas of Kabo, Gbazara and Moyenne Sido. Most fled their homes in the violence which engulfed the country two years ago and have been unable to return due to continuing insecurity.

MSF decided to carry out the food distribution, which is not a regular activity for its medical teams, as a preventive action after detecting that the displaced were receiving insufficient rations. The World Food Program (WFP) recently raised the alarm on the lack of funding for food aid in CAR and has sharply cut assistance.

“We saw that the situation for many of the displaced people was very fragile,” said Maria Simon, coordinator of MSF’s projects in CAR. “Food distributions are not something that we do as part of our regular activities. But after recent fighting in Kaga Bandoro and Bambari, other organizations were forced to divert resources to newly displaced people there, which prompted us to act.”

The WFP had planned to provide assistance to 700,000 people in CAR in the coming year, before a funding shortfall forced it to halve the quantity of rations each person receives and to limit its target to just 400,000 people. An estimated two million people—or 40 percent of the country's population—are in need of food assistance.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator recently agreed to release one million dollars in emergency financial assistance to WFP for CAR, but this will still not cover the current needs.

Each of the 2,000 households to whom MSF distributed food received about 80 pounds of rice, 11 pounds of beans, oil, salt and sugar. At the same time, MSF’s medical teams carried out medical activities, including vaccinating almost 3,000 children under 15-years-old against common childhood diseases. Teams also carried out nutritional assessments, malaria tests and deworming, and provided vitamin A supplements. Pregnant women were vaccinated and given supplements of iron and folic acid.

“These are people whose coping mechanisms were exhausted long ago and whose situation is getting worse,” said Simon. “We are witnessing suffering caused by a humanitarian crisis and a conflict that has not abated. Much more needs to be done now by international donors, agencies, and non-governmental organizations working in a country that has already had more than its share of suffering and neglect."

MSF has been working in CAR since 1996 and currently has more than 2,400 Central African staff and 230 international staff working in the country. Since 2013, MSF has doubled its level of medical support in response to the crisis. MSF currently works in about 20 locations in the country, where medical teams provide free health care, including pediatric care, routine vaccinations, maternal healthcare, and surgery, as well as treatment for diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis. 

MSF team unloads sacks of rice to be distributed in Kabo, northern CAR.