Aid workers get food to airport camp in Central African Republic

BANGUI Tue Jan 7, 2014 2:26pm EST

1 of 3. Displaced refugees, escaping the violence, queue as they show tickets allowing them to receive humanitarian aid at the airport outside the capital Bangui, January 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Emmanuel Braun

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BANGUI (Reuters) - Aid workers in the Central African Republic finally delivered supplies on Tuesday to more than 100,000 people who have sought refuge at the airport outside the capital to escape religious violence that has gripped the country.

Long lines of people who fled their homes queued in hot conditions for food and other goods. Two previous aid delivery efforts had been aborted, raising tensions at the airport, but the delivery helped to ease the situation, witnesses said.

Security for ordinary people has deteriorated sharply amid a wave of inter-religious violence that started when a Muslim group, the Seleka, set off a wave of killing and looting in the majority Christian nation after seizing power in March.

This prompted reprisal attacks from militias. The clashes have killed more than 1,000 people since December and the United Nations says 935,000 have been driven from their homes.

"The airport site is very complex. It isn't easy to manage more than 100,000 people. We tried it twice before and each time it was a failure," Catholic Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga told Reuters.

This time "we dared to say to people to organize themselves to respond to the appeal of aid workers and help them to do their work," said Nzapalainga, who attended the distribution.

Families at the sprawling camp have pieced together makeshift tents from bedsheets, strips of cardboard, tarpaulin and even palm leaves to provide some semblance of privacy and protection from the elements.

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) gave mosquito nets, mattresses, blankets and soap while the U.N. World Food Programme gave rice, oil, sugar.

The initial delivery was for 2,400 families, or around 12,000 people, and there are plans to increase aid to cater for everyone at the camp. Aid workers said the food aid should last for two weeks, but inhabitants believed it would be enough to cover less than half that time.

(Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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