The Central African Republic (CAR) is landlocked country highly impacted by historic conflicts. This situation has led to massive displacements, thus impacting households’ access to food and livelihoods. There are over 1.9 million displaced people within CAR and in neighboring countries, including 489,000 internally displaced persons. WFP highly prioritizes food insecure areas while strengthening capacities for the prevention and resilience to shocks.
In February 2023 Nelly Alemfack, a Cameroonian Gender and Protection Advisor deployed by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), joined the CAR Country Office for a 12-month mission. Nelly’s secondment is part of WFP's broader strategy to increasingly support gender transformative projects and protection strengthening through Standby Partner Expertise. Below is an account of her ongoing Standby experience in CAR.
In line with its current Gender Policy (2022 – 2026), WFP recognizes that achieving a world with zero hunger requires gender equality and the empowerment of all individuals. Yet, despite existing policies and legislations, gender-based inequalities reach alarming proportions in CAR. This situation is exacerbated by conflict dynamics, displacements and socio-cultural norms that are unfavourable to women and girls, making WFP determined to improve gender inclusion and protection in its operations.
“Survivors of gender disparities, especially sexual violence, suffer greatly”, explains Nelly. “In addition to the direct damage caused by aggressions, they have to deal with shame. Access to justice is often not chosen by the victim for fear of stigmatization by the community, or the lack of resources of the judiciary, especially in rural areas. Victims are often afraid to resume activities that used to support them and their families, which pushes them further into poverty and food insecurity. Furthermore, they may face security risks on their way to collect foods” she adds, praising WFP efforts to provide gender balanced assistance in safe conditions.
Unsurprisingly, Nelly’s mission started with comprehensive assessments and trainings. She quickly realized that most WFP staff and partners’ perception was limited to gender-disaggregated data. “There was a critical need to make people more aware of transformative approaches, in particular gender-sensitive communication and the prevention of gendered exploitation. More commitment was also needed regarding the Gender and Age Marker (GaM), the corporate tool that codes the extent to which gender and age are integrated into WFP programmes”, she explains.
Following this preliminary phase, Nelly now supports WFP in designing and implementing food assistance and livelihood activities that do not increase the protection risks of affected populations, but rather contribute to the security, dignity and integrity of vulnerable people. “My daily objective is to enhance the capacities of WFP personnel and partners regarding gender and protection, ensure their inclusion in internal policies and proposals and improve the presence of WFP in related events and humanitarian fora,” she confides.
To ensure protection and accountability to affected populations are part of WFP programming at every stage, Nelly also supports the implementation of the SugarCRM platform used to improve complaints collection, hotline numbers diffusion and collected data quality. “Thanks to various awareness-raising activities on assistance modalities and feedback mechanisms, communities members are increasingly sharing their perspectives on WFP interventions. The Country Office currently records a monthly average of 100 calls via the hotline”, she confides. “This is a great opportunity to support the implementation of protection risk mitigation measures linked to food assistance”, concurs Jacques A. Wathum, Coordinator of the Protection Cluster led by UNHCR.
Despite her heavy workload, Nelly is enthusiastic about the opportunity to help WFP further meet the specific food security and nutrition needs of women, men, girls, and boys. She believes that gender and protection should be everyone's responsibility within WFP and looks forward to continuing spreading awareness during field trips and engagements.
“With her valuable knowledge and dedication, Nelly is playing a key role in advancing WFP's efforts towards gender mainstreaming and enhanced protection in CAR. We greatly appreciate her capacity building work, notably for the reinforcement of the GAM tool among WFP staff. Moreover, her expertise has led the CO to involve her in the implementation of protocols related to the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA),” confirms Pascal Diro, Head of Programme.
Since 1991 the World Food Programme (WFP) collaborates with a vast network of Standby Partners consisting of public and private organizations complementing WFP’s operational capacity by providing staffing, equipment, and services. Standby Partnerships are activated in various job positions and provide crucial support to WFP operations in emergencies or when WFP needs specific technical expertise. In 2022, 205 experts supported 45 Country Offices, 4 Regional Bureaux, and Headquarters. To request and deploy experts Standby Partners please reach out to WFP Standby Partnerships team in the Emergency Operations Division at: email@example.com.