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Planting and school meals to stop famine in Central African Republic

May 2014: Groundnut and maize fields near Bossangoa. Crops have already grown 30 to 40 cm high.
May 2014: Groundnut and maize fields near Bossangoa. Crops have already grown 30 to 40 cm high.
FAO\Alexis Masciarelli

There is a massive effort to stop famine from engulfing the Central African Republic. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is leading the hunger relief mission in the war-devastated country.

Violence still persists and food shortages are severe. The latest UN report says about "45 percent of the rural population, or 1.7 million people, are food insecure." Many parts of the country are classified in "emergency" or "crisis" stage, meaning families depend on aid from the humanitarian organizations like WFP. Or they will starve to death.

WFP is helping with an agricultural campaign to get food growing again. The conflict in Central African Republic displaced so many people and ruined farmland. Crops could not be planted. It's critical to get food growing again now.

The threat of violence is ever-present. A WFP report states, "As a safety measure, farmers are planting ‘precious’ crops (cassava and sweet potatoes) in bush areas where they had been hiding, as they are less visible to looters."

WFP continues to distribute seeds and tools to help farmers. Also critical is food rations to prevent farmers from being forced to consume the seeds.

In Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, there is another program to feed children and get them learning again. Emergency school feeding is underway in 7 locations with plans for more.

So far 27,700 children have received the school meals. If WFP can feed these children and get them back in class at the same time, it will be a major development for a generation that has lost so much in the last year. The UN says that school feeding is needed for 400,000 children. The meals are an incentive for them to attend classes again.

WFP, which depends on voluntary donations, is short US $ 36.3 million for the emergency operation in Central African Republic. A relief fund has been set up by WFP.