- Officials of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said despite the heavy cost involved, they would be able to carry out a "highly complex operation to airlift emergency food supplies" to over 2,600 refugees from Darfur who recently crossed into the remote north-eastern corner of the Central African Republic.
"Airlifts are an expensive last resort, but we have no other option," Jean-Charles Dei, the WFP CAR Country Director, said. "These people are in one of the least accessible regions in the world, but they need help now. This is just the latest example of how the conflict in Darfur is having a destabilizing effect across the region."
The refugees most of who are women and children fled their home town of Dafak in South Darfur last May. The have since then been living in the CAR town of Sam Ouandja, amid poor and deteriorating conditions.
WFP staff, who visited the CAR refugee camps, were appalled to see that the refugees had been surviving on little more than mangoes and limited supplies of manioc. It was discovered that most of the refugees could not access have access to safe drinking water and shelter.
A plane carrying 15 metric tons of high-energy biscuits (HEBs) at WFP's Humanitarian response Depot in Accra, Ghana, is expected to arrive in the CAR capital Bangui today. A small plane will then fly the supplies to the east to Bria in two rotations. The HEBs will also be finally flown to Sa Ouandja but they must pass through four rotations.
The UN food body's officials said they have already dispatched 35 tons of food to north-eastern CAR by road. Besides, the 12-truck convoy is carrying seeds and agricultural equipment, water purification tablets and other emergency supplies from FAO, UNHCR and UNICEF.
However, due to the rainy season and poor road networks, it will take trucks about ten days to reach their destination.
In the coming days, a second convoy with 48 tons of food supplies will also leave for the CAR, WFP assured.
Aid workers in the north of CAR have been grappling with both logistical constraints and threats of insecurity. But the recent killing a Médecins sans Frontières worker near Paouain the northwest has been considered as the most serious in a string of attacks on aid workers, resulting to the temporary suspension of humanitarian work in the area.
"It's hard enough getting vital supplies through without having to worry for our physical safety. If the situation gets any worse there could be disastrous consequences for people who need our help most," Mr Dei said.
Humanitarian operation in CAR is still short of funds because WEF needs additional US$ 16 million to carry out its activities, which includes making food accessible to refugees and internally displaced people.
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