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Crisis levels of food insecurity sustained by the persistence of conflict

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Central African Republic
  • March 2014
Crisis levels of food insecurity sustained by the persistence of conflict

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through June 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Due to low levels of household food stocks, below-average incomes, and mass population displacements, household food access continues to be disrupted in the Bangui area and in the northwestern and central-western areas of the country worst affect by continued conflict. This will keep acute food insecurity in these areas at Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels, including food consumption gaps, through at least June 2014.
    • According to OCHA estimates, there are still 625,000 IDPs in the Central African Republic (CAR) as of March 26. Given conflict-related disruptions to their livelihoods and food access, IDPs will be facing some of the worst food security outcomes in the CAR during the next few months.

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    CURRENT ANOMALIES

    PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    National

    Due to the continuation of conflict, there are still 625,000 IDPs in the CAR.

    These IDPs will be partially dependent on humanitarian assistance until the beginning of the next round of harvests ranging from July to October 2014, depending on the area.

    Shortages of seeds and farm inputs for the current growing season due to asset losses during the conflict.

    Disruptions to this year’s farming activities will limit labor wage opportunities and incomes for poor households in rural areas. It will also result in below-average 2014/15 crop production levels.  

    Civil insecurity impedes humanitarian assistance programs.

     

    Civil security problems will continue to hamper humanitarian programs across the country. In particular, they will limit the ability of international forces to deploy assistance in areas outside Bangui.

     


    Projected Outlook through June 2014

    Despite the continuing civil conflict in the Central African Republic, there were fewer IDPs in Bangui at the end of March due to a slight improvement in security conditions, the ongoing mass return of foreigners to their home countries, and the start of the rainy season. According to OCHA, the number of IDPs in Bangui dropped from 232,000 as of March 5 to 200,000 by March 26, or by 14 percent. However, there are still approximately 625,000 IDPs across the country. These households were forced to leave their food stocks behind and, at present, are unusually dependent on gifts, wage labor, bartering, and humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs.

    In addition, poor households which have not been displaced are still adversely affected by below-average 2013/14 crop production levels caused by the effects of civil insecurity on the last growing season. These production shortfalls caused households to deplete their food stocks earlier than usual in January/February, compared to March/April in a normal year.

    For poor households and IDPs in the Bangui area and in the northwestern and west-central area of the country worst affected by conflict, typical income sources that usually help households maintain their food access are much more limited and less diversified than usual due to the effects of conflict. The few ongoing activities in these areas are limited to casual labor, petty trade, terminal fattening activities for small ruminants, and on-farm employment and are generating below-average employment opportunities and incomes. This is preventing households from earning enough income to fully meet their food needs. In contrast, typical income sources in southern areas of the country are less affected by the civil conflict (with the exception of Bangui and its surrounding areas) and are behaving more normally. For example, with the start of the rainy season in March, preparations for the upcoming growing season in these areas are proceeding normally and are enabling poor households to earn average incomes.

    Forecasts for the rainy season (ECMWF, IRI) are showing no major rainfall anomalies. Thus, FEWS NET is predicting an average rainy season. However, certain humanitarian organizations are reporting that households in conflict areas do not have enough seeds for the current growing season due to the effects of the conflict on household grain stocks. Moreover, the continuing conflict is restricting households’ access to their fields. As a result, most households are downsizing the land area scheduled to be planted in crops this year, which will translate into below-average crop production levels for the 2014/15 season and limited incomes from crop sales and on-farm employment.

    Humanitarian organizations are continuing to provide on-site food assistance, particularly in Bangui and Bossangoa, to help displaced households maintain their food intake. However, acts of theft, attacks, and security incidents and threats against these humanitarian organizations are causing them to limit or suspend activities in rural areas of the country, particularly in the north. This precludes the delivery of long-term assistance and heightens the risk of acute malnutrition in these areas.

    According to field reports, traditional food supply chains have been broken and market supplies have been below average as many large-scale traders specializing in cross-border trade of staple food commodities have left CAR for other countries. In addition, domestic trade flows are limited, with acts of theft and road blocks disrupting the road transportation network. However, despite these market disruptions, there have been no major shocks to maize and cassava prices, which appear to be following normal seasonal trends. For example, according to price data from Action Against Hunger (ACF), February prices for cassava in Bangui were up nine percent from November of last year (which was during the post-harvest period and prior to major conflict in Bangui), but were down 26 percent from February 2013’s levels. This may be due to the weak purchasing power of households whose income sources have been disrupted since the beginning of the conflict in December. However, prices for local hulled rice rose atypically by 16 percent in February despite the influx of fresh rice crops from the rice-producing area of Lobaye. Similarly, the price of unshelled peanuts also rose by 52 percent. These price increases are attributable to the strong demand engendered by the improvement in the purchasing power of government workers, who finally received their salaries after going five months without pay.

    In general, food security conditions are critical and are a source for concern for Bangui and for the northwestern and west-central areas of the country worst affected by conflict. According to the MIRA conducted in January 2014, most households had switched to less expensive foods and 90 percent of the households interviewed had reduced their food intake to one meal a day instead of their normal three daily meals. Moreover, according to a January assessment by the IOM, most IDPs in Bangui had cut back their number of daily meals (91 percent), reduced the size of their portions (86-91 percent), gone more than a day without eating (78 percent), and sold their assets in order to buy food (54 percent). Conditions will steadily deteriorate over the course of the lean season (from April to July in the south and from July to September in the north), creating food consumption gaps and eroding livelihoods. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity are expected between now and the beginning of the next round of harvests in July in the south and in October in the north. At that point, the consumption of vegetable and other early crops should help ease the severity of food insecurity.

     

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Source:

    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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