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Dangerous Rise in Malnutrition Cripples Central African Republic

Photo: Lucile Grosjean

Press Release: March 5, 2014.

The number of children suffering from the most severe form of malnutrition in Bangui, Central African Republic has increased dramatically due to political insecurity and economic troubles in the nation. Action Against Hunger experts warn that the number of people suffering from severe acute malnutrition may spike further as we enter the lean season, which will last until late summer.

In the first two months of 2014, Action Against Hunger teams in the Central African Republic admitted triple the number of malnourished children into treatment as they have during the same time period in previous years. Between January and February, over 2,200 children were admitted, compared to approximately 350 children in the same period last year. While increased nutritional coverage throughout the region accounts for some of the change, the numbers demonstrate serious trouble for the area’s most vulnerable communities.

Action Against Hunger mobile teams have uncovered an alarming statistic: more than 7 per cent of the children screened in February are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. It’s considered an emergency when that rate is 2 per cent or higher.

“We’re seeing more and more people from the distant outskirts of Bangui coming into town for treatment. In the rural areas, there are many families who live in the bush in unsanitary conditions. They’re extremely difficult to reach, so we’re worried that malnutrition rates are even higher than our screenings tell us. We’re very concerned about the situation throughout the province,” explains Nicolas Fuchs, Action Against Hunger Country Director in Central African Republic.

Compounding the trouble is the fact that health centers in Bangui have been forced to close due to security concerns. The 10 operational health centers that Action Against Hunger supports in the area have become overwhelmed to accommodate patients from the now-closed facilities.

“The Pediatric Complex (one of the centers Action Against Hunger supports), usually has 56 beds available for malnourished children. In February, 256 children had to be admitted to the nutrition unit. Additional teams were hired, and we’ve added three large tents to cope with the influx. We’ll probably have to build a fourth. Everyone is overwhelmed there and the hospital has reached the limits of its capabilities,” says Fuchs.

The crisis in the Central African Republic is creating major problems for communities, families, and children. Nicolas tells us, “The humanitarian catastrophe is huge and getting worse. The international humanitarian community must strengthen our financial efforts in order to cope.”

 

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