One of the largest conflicts in the world is taking place in the Central African Republic (CAR). Armed groups are terrorizing people across the country. Almost half the population has fled their homes and need humanitarian aid. With this outbreak of violence has emerged another enemy for the people: hunger.
This conflict gets far less attention than others, but President Obama did address the people of the CAR in a message of peace in December. This peace plan must be reinforced quickly with food aid or more desperation and chaos will follow.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is leading the hunger relief mission in the CAR. Their plan is to feed over a million people through August of 2014. The WFP's biggest challenge is getting food through conflict zones. They are also facing another problem: a shortage of funds.
WFP depends on voluntary donations from governments and the public. However, WFP right now is so short on funds for the CAR it may have to stop most of its operations by next month.
WFP is facing immediate shortfalls from January. From February there will be a near complete break in stocks (90% shortfall). Given the highly volatile situation, it is imperative that WFP be in a position to respond to planned needs, as well as a potential increase in needs."
The U.S. Food for Peace program has donated to the CAR relief mission. This aid has helped WFP feed around 237,000 war victims since violence escalated in December. Clearly, a lot more aid will be needed from the international community as a whole.
Congress also has to step up to the plate. Their responsibility comes in ensuring Food for Peace has enough funding in 2014 to help the CAR and other countries in need. Food for Peace is the largest supporter of the WFP. Reforms to the program are also needed to improve the efficiency.
So when the Farm Bill comes up again in Congress, it's about more than just us. People all across the world will be impacted by what decisions are made or not made.
Jeffrey Feltman, under Secretary of Political Affairs for the UN, briefed the Security Council yesterday, stating:
Killings in Bangui and in the rest of the country continue every day, and the population remains divided along religious affiliation.... Similary, localities outside Bangui like Bossangoa, Bouar, Bozoum and Paoua, amongst others, witness atrocities on a daily basis, including direct clashes between the Christian and Muslim communities.
UN peacekeepers have been brought in to try and establish security. Peace and reconciliation is what the CAR needs. It is hard to imagine this happening if families do not know where their next meal is coming from. Since there has been such an increase of violence, this impoverished country has lost much of its food production system.
Any peace plan for the CAR must be reinforced with food. Peace cannot be won if children are starving and stunted in growth. That is why funding is so critical for the World Food Programme's mission in the Central African Republic. It is food for peace.