Quarter of C African Republic’s population risks hunger – WFP

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Up to a quarter of the population of Central African Republic risks going hungry because of fighting between Christian and Muslim militia, and this number could increase, the chief of the UN World Food Programme said yesterday.

WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin told Reuters that security in the capital Bangui, which has seen a wave of killings and reprisals in the last two weeks, and in the rest of the country was still not guaranteed despite the presence of 1,600 French troops and an African peacekeeping force.    This was making it difficult for humanitarian agencies to distribute food and other supplies to over half a million people who have fled their homes since mainly Muslim Seleka rebels took power in March, ousting President Francois Bozize.

Christian defence groups have sprung up since then.

An assault on Bangui earlier this month by these Christian militia, aided by gunmen loyal to ousted President Bozize, sparked waves of tit-for-tat attacks that killed over 500 people and displaced some 160,000 in the capital alone, according to figures cited by the WFP chief. “Every area is different, some days an area that was accessible the day before is no longer accessible,” Cousin said in an interview in Johannesburg after attending the burial of South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela on Sunday.

She said a quarter of Central African Republic’s 5.2 million population was now identified as “food insecure” following the upsurge in violence and killings since December 5.

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