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Central African Republic: food aid for a record 55,000 people affected by conflict in troubled east

09-11-2010 News Release 10/202

Bangui/Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will today start distributing food to 55,000 residents, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in Haut-Mbomou and Mbomou departments in the east of the Central African Republic (CAR).

This will be the biggest relief operation the organization has ever carried out in the country.

"The security situation has deteriorated in the region over the last 12 months," said Valentina Bernasconi, deputy head of the ICRC's Bangui delegation. "Incursions by armed groups wreak havoc on the civilian population, generating widespread fear and a sense of vulnerability that last well beyond the attack itself. This has an enormously disruptive influence on normal life."

These incursions have led IDPs and Congolese refugees fleeing the violence to seek safety in the larger towns of Obo, Mboki, Rafai and Zemio, the four distribution points for this relief operation. The increase in population naturally drives up demand for food in these places, a demand that cannot always be met. Christa Utiger is the ICRC's economic security coordinator for the CAR, and is in charge of this operation. She explains: "Several factors have affected food security in the area. There is plenty of fertile land in the region but violence is interfering with traditional ways of life such as agriculture, hunting and fishing, with farmers often afraid to stray far from town to work their fields for fear of attack. This has reduced production, pushing up prices to the point at which not everyone can afford to buy food, even when it's available."

The ICRC also intends to distribute seed to the same communities in advance of the sowing season in the spring of 2011, to ensure that substantial harvests in the autumn provide enough food at reasonable prices. The priority is to help communities get back on their feet.

For further information, please contact:
Ewan Watson, ICRC Bangui, tel: +236 72 07 69 64
Iolanda Jaquemet, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 3518 or +41 22 79 217 3204