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Humanitarian food assistance needs remain high

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Central African Republic
  • December 2018
Humanitarian food assistance needs remain high

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  • Key Messages
  • Summary
  • Key Messages
    • Violence against civilians remains a chief concern in the last trimester of 2018, which was marked by attacks on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the displacement sites of Batangafo and Alindao. Humanitarian food assistance remains underfunded and inconsistent. Without reliable access to rations, food consumption deficits exist among IDPs, returnees, and host communities in the most vulnerable areas. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are likely to be sustained through May 2019.

    • Given ongoing harvests, food availability and income from crop sales for poor households not located in IDP sites are seasonally high but below the pre-crisis average. Household food stocks are expected to be depleted by March, leading to an early start of the lean season. Many households continued to be affected by racketeering and illicit taxes imposed by armed groups. An increasing number of households are unable to cope with essential non-food expenditures, including health and education, and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    • In sites with a high number of IDPs (Alindao, Bambari, Bria, Kaga Bandoro, Batangafo), most households have limited access to fields to engage in agricultural activities and are dependent on humanitarian food assistance and market food purchases. Given the early start to the lean season, food prices are expected to increase earlier than normal. An increasing number of IDPs and host community households are likely to adopt crisis consumption and livelihoods coping strategies to meet their minimum food needs.

    ZonesCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies 
    • In October, there were a total of 547,814 IDPs, 309,826 returnees from within CAR, and 107,724 returnees that had repatriated from neighboring countries. (IOM/DTM, October 2018). The prefectures of Mbomou, Bangui, Basse-Kotto and Nana-Gribizi host the highest numbers of IDPs.
    • The UN Security Council renewed MINUSCA’s mandate until November 19, 2019. The resolution prioritizes support for the ongoing peace process, transparency in the electoral process, the Armed Forces of CAR (FACA), disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, human rights, and justice and rule of law.
    • Clashes between armed groups, attacks on IDP sites and other communities by armed groups, intercommunal conflict, attacks on humanitarian actors, and instances of racketeering, theft, and roadblocks remain widespread, but occur most frequently in Nana-Gribizi, Ouaka, Ouham, and Haute-Kotto prefectures.
    • Security incidents are likely to continue given the recent fragmentation of armed groups. Similarly, clashes between armed groups and the risk of intercommunal conflict are likely to continue to cause new population displacement. 
    • Although the security situation is volatile, relative stability in some parts of CAR led to a higher number of returnees (172,206) than newly displaced (115,422) from January to September 2018. However, the rate of returns decreased in the third quarter (11,300 per month) compared to the second quarter (21,400 per month).
    • Due to below-average harvests, the lean season is expected to begin early. The lean season is expected from March to September in the north and from March to June in the rest of the country. Armed conflict is expected to continue to restrict household access to their fields.
    • Although IDPs sheltering in sites remain a priority for planned humanitarian food assistance, food aid is significantly underfunded. Consequently, food distributions are likely to continue to be inconsistent and are unlikely to mitigate food consumption gaps. 




    Projected outlook through January 2019 :

    The final months of 2018 have been defined by large-scale security incidents, most notably the attacks on Alindao and Batangafo, and escalating tensions due to the fragmentation of armed groups. Although violence against civilians is less deadly than 2017, the number of incidents in 2018 compared to 2017 has increased by 20 percent (Figure 1). However, relative improvements in security in parts of CAR, attributed to FACA and MINUSCA, encouraged more than 172,000 IDPs to return home from January to September, primarily to Ouham Pendé, Nana-Gribizi and Mbomou prefectures. During this period, the number of returnees exceeded the number of newly displaced persons, though the monthly return rate dropped significantly in the third quarter. Nonetheless, the total number of refugees that have chosen to repatriate increased by 62 percent in 2018, from a total of 41,107 at the end of 2017 to a total of 66,617 by October 2018. Repatriated refugees are mainly received in Bangui, Mbomou (refugees returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Ouham-Pendé (refugees returning from Cameroon).

    Maize and groundnut harvests are nearly complete while the sorghum and cassava harvest is currently ongoing. Cotton harvesting has also begun in the center and center-west of the country, and coffee and citrus harvests have begun in the southwest. These harvests are expected to be below the pre-crisis average, partly due to seasonal rainfall deficits throughout the season and partly due to limited household access to fields given the threats posed by armed groups. These crops, along with wild foods, will remain the main source of food and income through January for local community and displaced households outside of the IDP sites. However, the level of income earned from crop sales will likely be insufficient to permit all essential non-food expenditures, such as health and education services. As a result, most households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In IDP sites (namely Alindao, Bambari, Bria, Kaga Bandoro, and Batangafo), more than 70 percent of IDPs are estimated to be heavily reliant on humanitarian food assistance, in addition to market food purchases, as they have severely limited access to arable land. Recent attacks on Batangafo and Alindao sites resulted in the displacement of 30,000 and 18,000 people, respectively, which led to a substantial increase in immediate food assistance needs. In early November, 20-day food rations were distributed to at least 60 percent of IDPs at Bria, Batangafo, and Alindao sites. In Nana-Mambéré, Mambéré Kadaï, and Sangha Mbaéré prefectures in western CAR, which is relatively more stable, IDPs and host families received food distribution or cash transfers to facilitate their resettlement. However, these distributions and transfers are inconsistent, and food assistance typically covers less than 10 percent of the total population. As a result, most IDPs and host families routinely face food consumption gaps and are expected to continue to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.

    Projected outcomes from February to May 2019:

    Despite the central government and partners’ efforts to secure territory, tension between armed groups in Ouaka, Ouham, Haute-Kotto, Mbomou, and Nana-Grebizi prefectures and intercommunal conflict in Mbomou, Basse-Kotto, and Haut-Mbomou prefectures are expected to persist and cause new displacement. In these hot spots, local livelihoods are closely linked to mining, especially during the post-harvest period from November to March. However, mining activities are now under the control of armed groups, which has prevented households from undertaking mining activities and is likely to continue to reduce seasonal migration to these areas. Consequently, income that households typically generate from mining activities is expected to be below average, impacting their ability to purchase food.

    Criminal acts, roadblocks, and illicit taxes carried out by armed groups are expected to continue to restrict household income during the typical February marketing period for sales of cash crops (cotton, coffee, and citrus fruits). Given below-average agricultural production, poor households’ food stocks are likely to be depleted by March in northern prefectures and by April in the rest of the country. As a result, the lean season is expected to begin early and households will increase their reliance on market food purchases from March to May, when staple food prices are seasonally high. The seasonal rise in staple food prices is expected to be driven not only by weak market supply, but also by a decline in imports from Cameroon and Chad as a result of damaged transportation infrastructure during the April to September rainy season, which makes market access difficult. In addition, at the beginning of the peak period for cattle migration in February and at its end in May, the risk of resource-based conflict between local farmers and cross-border transhumants is expected to rise in southern and western CAR. Based on these factors, the number of off-site IDPs and local community households in the south and in the west that are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is expected to increase through May. These households are likely to consume more wild game and wild vegetables and to adopt stressed consumption strategies, such as reducing the number of meals per day.

    In IDP sites and areas most affected by conflict, rising staple food prices will have a more significant impact, given heavier reliance on market food purchases. Moreover, given that humanitarian food assistance is currently insufficient and humanitarian access is impeded by security incidents, most IDP and host family households are not expected to receive regular rations. Rations for repatriated refugees are also expected to be underfunded and inconsistent, and distributions may be further stretched as more refugees return home to CAR. 30 percent of repatriated refugees cite economic difficulties in neighboring host countries as the primary reason for return, while others have cited improved security conditions in CAR, and it is anticipated that the number of returnees will continue to rise. Without an increase in funding to expand planned humanitarian assistance, IDPs and host communities in sites most affected by conflict as well as returnees rebuilding their livelihoods are expected to adopt crisis consumption and livelihoods coping strategies to meet their minimum food needs. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are most likely to persist through May.

    Figures Graph depicting trends in the number of civilian fatalities in 2017 compared to 2018. Cumulative fatalities in 2018 are lower

    Figure 1

    Source: ACLED/FEWS NET

    Maize and groundnut harvest is July through September. Millet and rainfed rice harvest is October through December. Sorghum a

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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