In January 2009, USAID/East Africa led an assessment mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) to identify programming needs and opportunities in infrastructure development, particularly farm-to-market rural road improvement. The ancillary, broader impact of this planned investment is to help increase urgently needed economic opportunity, access to basic social services, and security in targeted areas.
With a population of approximately 4 million, CAR is among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 171 out of 177 countries on the human development index. Only half the children in CAR – and fewer girls – go to school. Access to quality basic healthcare is severely limited. For every 100,000 live births, 1,355 mothers die. Almost one in five children will not live beyond five years. Global acute malnutrition is estimated at 10.1%. Life expectancy is 43 years. HIV/AIDS prevalence is approximately 6.2% among adults.
On The Road in CAR.
Ever since CAR achieved independence in 1960, political life has been characterized by instability and conflict, including 15 coups d état. Protracted conflict within CAR and the sub-region, including the bordering countries of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chad, further compound widespread poverty and vulnerability in CAR.
In the wake of important peace accords and inclusive political dialogue in the past year, economic development and good governance are urgently needed to alleviate humanitarian suffering and mitigate a renewal of increased conflict. In this context, improving rural roads is a vital, necessary, first step towards increasing economic opportunity, access to basic social services, and security in this highly fragile, vulnerable state in the heart of Africa. Though not at the center of US Africa policy, CAR is situated in strategic region where conflict continues to threaten its high-profile neighbors including Chad, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a modest USG investment can make a measurable, visible, positive impact on targeted communities.