Wednesday May 14, 2014

Catholic and Muslim charities warn of Central African Republic food crisis

Catholic and Muslim aid agencies have joined forces to warn that more than half the population of the Central African Republic risk going hungry as a result of instability and violence across the country.

The aid agencies – CAFOD, Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid and the Muslim Charities Forum – say that 2.5 million people – 54 per cent of the population are directly affected by the crisis. Over a third of people – 35 per cent – are in urgent need of food.

The warning comes after a joint mission by the agencies to assess the scale of the humanitarian crisis.

CAFOD’s Emergency Coordinator, Catherine Mahony, said: “We saw shocking levels of destitution among families, who had exhausted all means of coping with this crisis. As a result, our agencies are going to provide immediate help to communities in Bossangoa. Our support will enable 10,000 families to get the food they need so that they can provide for their families in the difficult months to follow. CAFOD’s partner Catholic Relief Services will be working with the UN Food Programme, WFP, to ensure that these families receive emergency food aid.”

CAFOD will be working alongside the British Muslim charities to support the immediate distribution of seeds and tools so, where appropriate, communities can take advantage of the current rainy season.

Imran Madden, Head of Islamic Relief’s Humanitarian Department, said:  “We were humbled by the many brave and courageous people we met, who are deeply committed to helping those caught up in the violence. Churches and mosques throughout CAR are providing vital refuge for displaced people, often at considerable risk to their own safety. They are working to deliver much needed humanitarian aid, as well as building bridges between people caught up in a worrying cycle of distrust, fear and vengeance.”

A survey led by CAFOD’s sister agency Catholic Relief Services shows that on average 74 per cent of households in Bossangoa, in the north-west of the country, have had their homes destroyed as a result of looting or fires, leading in many cases to the loss of all their stocks of seeds and agricultural tools.

Dr. Hany El-Banna, Chair of the  Muslim Charities Forum concluded:  “Our visit strengthened our resolve that by working together as Catholic and Muslim charities, we can be of immediate practical help and also send out a strong message of unity and hope.”

Since December 2013, the Central African Republic has witnessed increasing violence that has killed tens of thousands of people, leaving over 600,000 people homeless inside the country, and 350,000 more fleeing into neighbouring countries.

The country has been engulfed in violence since a coalition of rebel groups known as Seleka seized power in March 2013. In December, militias known as ‘Anti-balaka’ launched counterattacks, often targeting the minority Muslim population.

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