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Rehabilitation and reopening of airstrips in the towns of Rafai and Zémio

Central African Republic

Violent clashes this summer between armed groups in Mbomou and Haut-Mbomou, in CAR, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, made it difficult for humanitarian aid to get through to the towns of Rafai and Zemio, leading to the displacement of more than 50,000 people. In August, Handicap International (HI) and the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) repaired aerodrome runways in both towns, which have now been reopened to the public.

Locals gather around the first plane to land on the repaired airstrip. | © HI

A total of 660 people took part in this rehabilitation work. HI introduced a quota for the number women and people with disabilities employed on its teams.

Works were carried out on two airstrips, each measuring 1.3 kilometres long by 30 metres wide on average. Their rehabilitation mainly consisted in weeding the boundaries (surroundings, car park, clearances and strips), changing the air hoses, adjusting the dangerous parts of drainage pipes and extracting laterite from the mound closest to the site in order to plug the holes and level the uneven parts of the runway.

The project trained local people in masonry techniques, strengthened the knowledge of skilled craftsmen, along with the techniques for using work tools and site organization methods.  To ensure the viability of the runways, the Runway Maintenance Committee was given technical training to maintain the infrastructure.

The reopening of the two airstrips will facilitate the return of NGOs and UN agencies to the region and the resumption of humanitarian services. The town's economic activity is also likely to receive a boost as the population has been left without any income-generating activities since the crisis. 

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