Peaceful periods allow for humanitarian assistance in Birao
Located in the far north of the Central African Republic, on the border with Chad and Sudan, the city of Birao is experiencing relative calm despite the country's instability. This calm has come after an escalation of violence in 2019, which had resulted in dozens of deaths and the displacement of more than 23,000 people. Humanitarian actors, already operational in the city before the 2019 clashes, have further strengthened their presence and stepped up the multisectoral response to urgent needs. Thanks to their mobilization, the level of severity of humanitarian needs has dropped significantly in one year. Thus, the proportion of the population with an acceptable level of food consumption has almost doubled from 39 per cent to 74 per cent, and half of the city’s’ population now has access to drinking water compared to only a quarter in 2019. Today, only 5 per cent of the population is forced to defecate in the open due to a lack of latrines, down from 37 per cent in 2019. Even though emergency assistance has been provided, humanitarian needs remain.
An unwanted dependency
After fleeing her neighborhood in Birao in 2019, Zénaba found herself at an IDP site with her four children. She had no resources to survive, as she was forced to save her life and the lives of her children, leaving behind all her belongings. Being a trader, she found herself at the IDP site without her goods. "If we did not receive aid from humanitarians, my two-year-old son would have died," she said. Being at the site, the population does not have access to the fields due to the presence of armed groups around Birao and they depend, in large part, on humanitarian assistance. The displaced people receive monthly food rations from the World Food Program (WFP), consisting of oil, cornmeal, salt, beans and millet.
A peaceful period in February 2021 enabled WFP to ship 143 tonnes of food from Sudan via Am-Dafock to Birao. A first distribution was carried out from February 11 to 13 to help 2,367 vulnerable families in Am-Dafock (65 km east of Birao), where 28,150 tons of food were distributed in 15-day food rations. From February 16 to 21, internally displaced people from different IDP sites in Birao, such as the Chinese site, the Yata site and the Hospital site, as well as those in host families, estimated at more than 4,000 families, received 66 tonnes of WFP food in 15-day food rations. In order to consolidate its stocks for assistance in the coming months, WFP received 10 trucks from Bangui carrying more than 470 tonnes of food.
Make agriculture a means of resilience
Other NGOs provide other assistance. The NGO Triangle Génération Humanitaire, for example, provides support to 400 people who have formed a group to cultivate vegetable gardens. Support with seeds, tillage tools and technical knowhow from an agronomist enabled them to plant vegetables such as okra, squash, melons, amaranths and onions. These vegetable gardeners have testified that they survive from the sale of the produce they harvest. "I have benefited from the support of the NGO Triangle for more than two years; I can attest to the benefits of the support that this organization has given us. Without this help, I will not know what to do with my family,” said Ousmane, a gardener and father of three children. The NGO Triangle also distributed 12 tons of seeds such as peanuts, sesame, cowpea, sorghum and 15,000 cassava cuttings to 1,000 households on the axes that lead from Birao to Ouada, Djallé, Terfel and Matala. This distribution enabled the revival of agricultural activities, in areas where the security situation allows it. In addition to assistance in agriculture, 10 groups of beekeepers benefited from tools to promote the resumption of their activities, namely beehives and protective equipment, while 30 groups of fishers received canoes, nets and fishhooks. In parallel, Triangle launched a campaign to distribute cattle and donkeys to 45 groups of farmers to enable them to prepare for the next agricultural season. Triangle's intervention also took into account the valorization and processing of local products by providing two peanut oil extraction machines to the village savings and credit association of Birao.
At the end of January 2021, the city of Birao had three sites for displaced people, the largest of which, called the “Chinese site”, is located next to the peacekeepers base, and counts 8,000 people. For these people, even if they benefit from multisectoral assistance, protection remains a major challenge. Free movement and access to the fields is compromised due to the presence of armed elements around the city.