The endless cycle of violence in the Central African Republic is creating increasing despair in the country. A recent violent attack on the town of Bakouma caused destruction of private property and the burning of homes and businesses. Poor, weak and hopeless people simply took to their heels into bushes bushes for safety.
Aïchatou, who is only 22 years old, is beginning to wonder if life is worth living as repeated violence disrupts lives and destroys social cohesion among people of different religious and cultural backgrounds
“I am tired of this life that I lead,” says Aïchatou. “These armed men destroy villages and lives; and I live to pay a heavy price. Why? Just because I am Muslim? I have been living in fear for almost two years. I am scared even to go to the market,” adds the young woman.
Aïchatou is in Bangassou, a town which is located 750 km from the country’s capital of Bangui. Most of the people who fled Bakouma have sought refuge in Bangassou.
Despite the enormous security challenges, and difficult access to Bangassou, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided emergency assistance to more than 20,000 displaced people. Many have heart-rending stories to tell.
Madeleine still wears a look of despair on her face as she queues to receive food from WFP. She lost her mother during the violence in Bakouma at the end of December. She fled for dear life with her child.
“I did not take anything during my flight and I do not have the financial resources to buy food,” says the 18-year-old Madeleine. “But finally, I can make food for my daughter and feed myself, thanks to the food from WFP.”
Under a blazing sun, WFP’s Albert Bango-Makoudou coordinates food distribution at the Tata Sayo Stadium in Bangassou, alongside staff from Caritas — a partner organization. The place is filled with people, mostly women and children, looking haggard with worried faces — not knowing what the future will be.
“The area is not secure. Depending on the availability of military escorts from the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), we go to these totally destitute people to bring them rice, legumes, oil, salt and fortified biscuits,” says Albert.
After more than 20 years at WFP, Albert’s motivation to serve people has not waned. He explains that about 17,000 displaced people are in the city of Bangassou and 3,000 scattered along the road to Bakouma.
As Albert and his team continue the distribution, a pregnant woman who is happy to receive WFP food catches my attention. She traveled 130 kilometers on foot in four days to escape the violence.
“In spite of the advanced state of my pregnancy, I had to leave Bakouma in a hurry after the death of my 26-year-old brother,” says Sylvie Yaza, a 35-year-old mother of six children.
There is some hope amid this tragedy, though.
Falmata Mahamat, an 18-year-old high school student, is not ready to give up. Inspired by the fortitude of humanitarian worker who brave the odds to serve humanity, she is determined to survive these turbulent times and live in a better Central African Republic. She wants to be a magistrate to bring all the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice.
“I would have liked to be humanitarian like you who are always on the ground in unsafe places to help people. But I finally opted for the judiciary,” she says with a big smile.
The World Food Programme provides lifesaving food and nutrition assistance to thousands of people in Central Africa thanks to generous donations from the United States and Japan. WFP also receives support from the UN Common Humanitarian Fund for Central Africa.
By Bruno Djoyo