In order to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the most remote parts of war-torn Central African Republic (CAR), Handicap International has been repairing and reopening air strips across the country to allow planes carrying aid shipments to land. Many of the country’s airstrips have been out of use for decades and are unusable due to overgrown vegetation and damage.
Since 2014, the crisis in CAR has put 2.5 million people, or more than half the population, in a precarious situation. Many of these vulnerable people live in difficult to reach areas, making Handicap International’s work essential.
This year, Handicap International has rehabilitated 12 airstrips so far, working conjunction with UN agencies and other organizations with humanitarian air transport services like Médecins Sans Frontières. Between January and March 2016, Handicap International provided logistical support to more 20 humanitarian organizations, facilitating the shipment of 42 tons of aid on 115 flights. Since then, the volume of aid managed by Handicap International and distributed by air has increased.
“The air service is essential because the roads are in such poor condition,” says Allan Bernard, who coordinates Handicap International’s logistics in CAR. “For example, it can take three weeks for a truck to travel 600 miles from the capital of Bangui to the town of Birao in the north. In emergency situations, the distribution of aid by air is the most effective or only option."
Having a functional airstrip can mean the difference between life and death in CAR’s most remote towns, such as Tiringoulou, a town of 50,000 inhabitants located near the border with Chad. When the crisis began in CAR, Chad closed border crossing between the two countries, making it difficult for residents in Tiringoulou to access food and other goods. However, in March 2016, Handicap International repaired the town’s airstrip, and since then the UN has flown in more than 12 tons of humanitarian aid.