When conflict broke out in the Central African Republic, thousands of people sought shelter in the one place in Bangui where they felt safest: the airport. There is a French base nearby, and airports are often one of the few well-functioning services in even the poorest countries. The Bangui M’Poko airport was a natural refuge.

The number of people who sought the relative protection of the airport quickly swelled from 50,000 in December to about 100,000 today. Conditions are very, very rough. Because of security issues, food aid only began to arrive this week. There is widespread fear of a deadly measles outbreak.

Unicef has some harrowing images from the large, spontaneous camp and of the efforts of humanitarian agencies to stop the spread of infectious disease.

And here is a slideshow from VOA

Also from VOA

A spokesman for the UN refugee agency, Bernard Ntwari, said that distributing aid at this densely populated camp has been difficult.

He said the distribution of food had to be suspended here several times because of a lack of security, but now, with collaboration from the displaced people’s leaders, they have been able to clear a site for the operation.

The distribution of food and other essentials, such as buckets for water and waterproof mats, was restarted Tuesday and is due to last for 10 days.

An experienced aid worker told VOA he had never seen a camp where people were packed together so tightly, a sign of how desperate they are to get close to the French army’s protection.

The situation is obviously very tenuous.  But the fact that it has been so difficult to provide for basic humanitarian relief thus far does not bode well for the chances of CAR avoiding a massive humanitarian crisis.

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