Wednesday, January 1, 2014

CAR: " We sit and chew on daffodils and struggle to answer "Why? "

The UN reports

Famine and malnutrition stalk strife-torn Central African Republic, UN agencies warn

WFP has provided food assistance to more than 500,000 displaced people across the Central African Republic (CAR). Photo: WFP/Djaounsede Pardon Madjiangar

31 December 2013 – United Nations agencies today warned of possible famine and severe malnutrition in the Central African Republic (CAR), calling on donors to provide urgent funding to mitigate the crisis in the impoverished country where a year of conflict has already killed thousands of people and driven 750,000 others from their homes.

The regime of Michel Djotodia is responsible for this situation and must now acknowledge its failure and leave office. When Djotodia seized office in March this year he had one overriding responsibility, to bring about stability. His attempts to blame the previous regime for the current situation do not stack up in anyway. His Seleka coalition government capabilities are limited to robbery rape and murder.

“We urgently need support from donors so we won’t start running out of food in January,” the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for West Africa, Denise Brown, said in Bangui, the capital of CAR. “We are providing food for hungry people wherever we can in CAR. But insecurity is the biggest challenge.”

The donors needed are us. The world and particularly our governments, the West watched on as the government of François Bozizé collapsed, we have continued watch the situation deteriorate and done nothing. Lesley Anne Warner at Lesley on Africa posits some reasons as to why that might have happened, but the real reason as we all know, is that it is Africa and African lives count for little. It would seem that the people of central Africa's lives count for even less.

With the coming harvest threatened since farmers have fled their lands or lack seeds due to looting and because people have had to eat them instead of saving them for planting, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WFP have launched a 100-day response plan to boost nutrition and restore agricultural production through seed distribution and storage facilities.

But so far FAO has only been able to raise $4.3 million of the $61 million needed to help 1.8 million people, out of a total population of 4.6 million.

Unfortunately we don't have a hundred days. Al Jazeera reports:

                                                        Makeshift camp at Bangui airport

" More than 100,000 people displaced by inter-religious violence in Central African Republic are sheltering at a makeshift camp at Bangui airport, a medical charity has said, calling for urgent aid.
....MSF said the airport camp, which stretches for kilometres beside the runway, lacked proper sanitation as well as supplies of food and water as UN agencies have failed to keep pace with the scale of the problem.
"If nothing is done in the next two weeks there is a risk of an epidemic breaking out," said Lindis Hurum, MSF coordinator at the airport camp."

It would be nice to think that we could recover this situation, distribute seed get the planting done and harvest in time to prevent famine. We can't the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has no role to play in the CAR at the moment its objectives are: 

" Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Our mandate is to improve nutrition, increase agricultural productivity, raise the standard of living in rural populations and contribute to global economic growth."

“The success of the next planting season crucially hinges on the return of farming families to the fields,” FAO said in a news release. “Families who are unable to plant in March will have to wait one whole year before they can hope to harvest again. Failure to help these families will have dramatic consequences on the food security for a quarter of the Central African population.

The FAO can't achieve anything this season, the UN will struggle to put together a peacekeeping mission by March and until it does the security of the population is in the hands of MISCA (Support Mission to the Central African Republic ) and the 1600 troops the French have on the ground. It isn't anywhere near enough to provide much more than some safe zones.

“The low production perceived from the last harvest coupled with a prevailing situation of chronic country-wide malnutrition is setting the stage for a full-scale food and nutrition security crisis should the next planting season fail.”

It has failed. That is now a given and it is time to stop wringing our hands and do something concrete. It is called food aid and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has the responsibility to get this situation under control.

CAR has been thrown into turmoil since mainly Muslim Séléka rebels launched attacks a year ago and forced President François Bozizé to flee in March. A transitional government has since been entrusted with restoring peace and paving the way for democratic elections, but armed clashes have erupted again and the mainly Christian anti-Balaka movement has taken up arms.

The Transitional Government has failed, given its constituent parts it was always going to. It is now an impediment and should be dismissed as irrelevant. This administration came to power at the barrel of a gun and it should be dismissed, if necessary by the barrels of MISCA  AU troops and the French troops.

Earlier this month Christians and Muslims launched reprisal attacks against each other in and around Bangui, where some 210,000 people were driven from their homes.

"The combination of food shortages and poor sanitary conditions in the camps and deep in the bush, as well as extreme poverty, risk triggering serious malnutrition,” FAO Country Representative Alexis Bontesaid following a visit to Bossangoa, 160 miles north of Bangui, on Sunday.

The combination of western indifference and a willingness to allow a group of criminals to assume power of course was the actual trigger. The Seleka thugs pulled that trigger and the results are plain for all to see. It would in retrospect have been far preferable to tolerate for now the corruption of the Bozize regime and kept him in power.

WFP, which has appealed for $107 million through August 2014 to assist 1.25 million people, has called on all parties to ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and the timely delivery of aid to people in need wherever they are. “WFP is neutral and delivers assistance solely on the basis of need,” Ms. Brown said.

$107 million is a trivial amount. This is the price of the US Government shutdown.  
" .....the price tag for the first government shutdown in 17 years: about $1.6 billion a week, $300 million a day, or $12.5 million an hour."

I doubt that the WFP will be able to raise that amount via donor nations. As I said above there is only one conclusion possible African lives count for little.   

Despite the volatile security situation, WFP and its partners have assisted more than 237,000 people since 5 December, and from January to April will increase food distributions, provide supplementary feeding to combat malnutrition among children under five, and aid vulnerable groups. From May to August, it will also reach more people in need during the lean season when the last harvest runs out.

The new emergency operation specifies that because of security risks, food distributions will be undertaken by teams moving swiftly from site to site and able to adjust plans. To avoid putting people in need of assistance at risk, a protection analysis will be conducted in each place. In some locations, cooked meals may be provided to help protect women and children.

Earlier this month WFP launched a special operation to deploy more staff, set up local offices, obtain vital security and telecommunications equipment and support establishing cross-border humanitarian flights into CAR at a cost of $5.3 million through June.

It won't be enough but it is a good start.

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