The Central African Republic (CAR), one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 188 out of 189 on the Human Development Index (HDI), has been wracked by violence and insecurity for many years. A coup by Seleka rebels in March 2013 has made the situation even more volatile. Road and air transport have been badly hit and it is extremely difficult for humanitarian organisations to access people affected by the crisis.
“A lot of roads are dangerous and sometimes inaccessible or in a very bad state, especially during the rainy season. That’s why we transport humanitarian aid by air and pool road transport. Most of the country’s airstrips are in a poor state of repair. The biggest challenge now is to help NGOs access people worst affected by the crisis,” explains Guillaume Woehling, head of Handicap International’s mission in CAR.
In December 2015, Handicap International set up a logistics hub 1 to help NGOs and its partners transport humanitarian aid to vulnerable people. Its priority is to improve humanitarian response by providing logistical support to make it easier and faster for humanitarian operators to reach the most vulnerable people in isolated areas of the country.
The logistics hub makes air transport easier following the repair of damaged airstrips, optimises road transport from Bangui and provincial hubs in Bossango and Kaga-Bandoro, and provides secure warehousing in Bangui and other hubs.
“A lot of airstrips are badly damaged and haven’t been used in years. We identify them, pinpoint humanitarian emergencies, and prioritise the next strips to repair 2. For example, we decided to repair the Sibut airstrip. It hadn’t been used since 1976 so we had to cut down 8,000 trees! One of our top priorities is to make airstrips operational again. We’ve repaired five strips to date, allowing us to make dozens of flights and transport humanitarian aid and tens of tonnes of equipment to isolated regions,” explains Guillaume Woelhing.
Handicap International’s teams also facilitate warehousing, in conjunction with humanitarian air services (UNHAS and ASF 3). “We pick up freight from NGOs and our partners by lorry and take them to the airport where we warehouse it to make it easier to transport afterwards.”
Handicap International also pools and optimises road transport, and provides free transport services for its humanitarian partners across the country (serving 22 towns at the present time) from Bangui and two provinicial hubs 4 in Bossangoa and Kaga-Bandoro. From December 2015 to April 2016, the equivalent of 2,500 tonnes of cargo was made available to the organisation’s partners 5.
“We think it’s vital to have secure storage depots. There was a lot of looting during the last crisis in September 2015. It’s really important to have a centralised hub that’s easy to secure in the event of another emergency. We are also planning to expand the hub’s services to include mechanical and fuel services, because this is one of the pressing needs identified by our humanitarian partners in Central Africa.”
1 Hub funded by the World Food Programme (WFP) via the CERF (UN) funding mechanism.
2 In partnership with humanitarian operators, UNHAS and Aviations Sans Frontières.
3 United Nations Humanitarian Air Service and Aviations sans Frontières.
4 Temporary storage depot for humanitarian supplies.
5 NGOs and United Nations agencies.