Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been wracked by violence and insecurity for years. A coup d’état by Seleka rebels in March 2013, has made the situation even more volatile. Road and air transportation has been badly hit, making it extremely difficult for humanitarian organizations to access people affected by the crisis.
In December 2015, Handicap International launched a transport and logistics service in Central African Republic in order to bring aid to people living in difficult to access areas.
“A lot of roads are dangerous and sometimes inaccessible, especially during the rainy season,” says Guillaume Woehling, head of Handicap International’s mission in Central Africa. “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 bring aid to the people worst affected by the crisis.”
Handicap International set up the logistics hub to help NGOs and its partners transport humanitarian aid. The service makes it easier and faster for humanitarian operators to reach the most vulnerable people by repairing damaged airstrips, organizing road transport from the capital city of Bangui and provincial hubs, and providing secure warehousing.
“One of our top priorities is to make airstrips operational again,” says Woelhing. “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. We’ve repaired five strips to date, allowing us to make dozens of flights and transport humanitarian aid and tons of equipment to isolated regions.”
Handicap International’s teams also run a series of warehouses, in conjunction with humanitarian air services (UNHAS and ASF). “We pick up freight from NGOs and our partners by truck and take them to the airport where we warehouse it to make it easier to transport afterwards.”
Handicap International provides free truck transport services for its humanitarian partners across the country. So far, the service has transported 2,755 tons of aid and equipment for partners.
“It’s vital to have secure storage depots,” says Woelhing. “There was a lot of looting during the last crisis in September 2015. It’s really important to have a centralized 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 most pressing needs identified by our humanitarian partners in Central Africa.”