Central African Republic: Alarming fuel shortage exacerbates worst levels of humanitarian needs since 2015
By: Tom Peyre-Costa
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NRC Regional Advisor for Central & West Africa
A growing lack of fuel in the Central African Republic, (C.A.R) exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, is worsening an already critical situation for the 3.1 million people in the country who are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. In the last two months, the fuel shortage has forced humanitarian organizations to drastically reduce operations while also driving up food prices.
“In some of the most affected areas of the country such as the Kaga-Bandoro province, we have only been able to purchase 25% of the fuel needed this month, preventing us from assisting families in need on six consecutive days,” said Tchatat Yakwa Godain Powel, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in the Central African Republic. “The fuel shortage is adding a crisis on top of the crisis – it is vital for families depending on aid to survive that the fuel for the humanitarian response is urgently supplied and meets operational needs.”
This fuel shortage means that some humanitarian flights within the country have been either suspended or postponed, preventing aid workers from reaching people in need. As per the latest schedule from the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), flights from Bangui to Kaga Bandoro and Alindao have been reduced from three per week to once every two weeks. The entire humanitarian response is under threat of being drastically reduced, while 63 per cent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
The food crisis is also impacted. While 2.4 million people – half of the country’s population – are currently acutely food insecure, food prices are increasing due to the war in Ukraine as the neighbouring countries on which CAR depends for the import of food and cereals are themselves dependent on Ukraine and Russia to meet their needs. In the last months, the price of wheat flour in CAR has risen by 50 per cent. In June-July the price of meat will increase by 30 per cent, and the price of cassava by 50 per cent, according to UN projections.
“Children get sick regularly, they are half the weight they should be. They don’t get enough protein and they are all fragile. We receive humanitarian aid but the amount of food we have been given is not enough to feed us. And with the price increase on the market, it is difficult for us,” said Mariam, a displaced mother in Alindao.
Combined, the lack of fuel and soaring prices are increasing the cost of humanitarian operations, while the response has only received 38.7 per cent of the money required this year.
“The lack of fuel is pulling the rug out from under us while the lack of humanitarian funding prevents us from getting back on our feet. Donor countries need to consider the increase in prices and ensure that the response can scale up to meet needs. If the funding is not urgently increased, the impact of the war in Ukraine will continue pulling a country largely weakened by years of conflict into a downward spiral,” said Powel.
In the last month, the fuel supply for NRC operations has been reduced by 50% across the country. This means water, sanitation and shelter programs are the most affected as they are the largest consumer of fuel due to the use of transport trucks. The price of a cement bag went as high as $30 which is equivalent to a 50% increase on the average price ($20) before the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis.
A baguette of bread that used to cost 125 CFA francs is now sold at 175 CFA francs (+40%) according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). There are more than 160,000 acutely malnourished children in CAR and two-thirds of them (103,930) are not receiving any nutrition support due to a funding shortfall and operational cost increase (UNOCHA).