Civil war fuels ‘dire’ food situation in Central African Republic

Luke 21:11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Millions of people in the war-torn Central African Republic are at risk of going hungry because the three-year conflict has disrupted food supplies, two United Nations agencies said Tuesday.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a joint statement about their newly released report on food security in the African nation, where a civil war erupted in December 2012 and triggered an economic collapse the following year.

The report found that 58 percent of the country’s 4.6 million residents needed immediate humanitarian assistance, as crop production had improved last year but levels were still less than half of what they were before the crisis began. Prices of groundnuts, wheat flour, beef and fish had surged, and two-thirds of people surveyed reported they had less food than in 2014.

“The situation is dire. Half of the population faces hunger,” Bienvenu Djossa, the WFP’s country director in the Central African Republic, said in a statement. “It is crucial that we continue helping the most vulnerable, who need emergency food assistance to survive.”

Total crop production stood at 838,671 metric tons last year, the agencies said in a news release, about 54 percent below its pre-civil-war average. The agencies added killings and lootings have cut the country’s cattle population in half in three years, and goat and sheep populations fell 57 percent in that time. Fishermen are also catching about 60 percent fewer fish than in past years.

The agencies said food prices in the Central African Republic surged even higher after the capital city of Bangui saw an uptick in violence last September. Groundnut prices in the city were up 74 percent from their 2012 levels, while fish prices were up 70 percent and the cost of beef doubled.

The prices of maize and cassava either dropped or remained steady, the report found, but that was largely because the violence disrupted trade activities and kept the products close to Bangui.

The U.N. Refugee Agency says more than 1 million people have been displaced in the conflict.

The WFP and FAO appealed for $175 million for humanitarian efforts in the Central African Republic, as well as nearby countries that are hosting some of the republic’s 470,000 refugees.

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