Nine month old Naomi and her mother, Thérèse, at a pediatric centre in Bangui, CAR. Naomi is being treated for Severe Acute Malnutrition. Photo by Lucile Chombart
The recent deterioration of the security state in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced Action against Hunger (ACF) to temporarily reduce certain activities and programs in the country. At this time, only nutrition programs, integrated with 11 health centres in Bangui, are being maintained. More than 550 severely malnourished children are receiving care which cannot be interrupted. We are ready to deploy additional emergency assistance if required.
Pending stabilization of the situation, ACF has temporarily evacuated some of its international staff in neighbouring countries. However, with more than a hundred local employees, the mission is able to maintain its capital program.
Severe acute malnutrition is a chronic disease in CAR. This is one of the reasons that prompted ACF to open a mission there in 2006. Since then, our work has aimed to support health services, treat patients with acutely malnourished children, and foster local development, agriculture or other revenue-generating activities, while ensuring access to water and sanitation, maternal and child care. All these efforts work together to fight against the underlying causes of severe acute malnutrition.
CAR: A vulnerable country, a forgotten crisis
The country is in a state of chronic vulnerability and the situation has been getting worse year after year for over 40 years. This is called a “forgotten crisis”. Few NGOs are able to work in CAR because of the scarcity of donor funds.
Despite some recovery from the economic crisis of 2008, economic growth in CAR is too low to have an impact on poverty reduction and job creation. CAR remains incredibly fragile. Nearly 70% of the population lives below the poverty line. Government support is virtually absent and the health care system almost non-existent except in Bangui, the capital.
Nearly 8% of children suffer from acute malnutrition in the capital. Take Naomi, a girl of 9 months and a patient of ACF’s malnutrition treatment program. Weighing just 3 pounds in early December, she was admitted in early December in the pediatric nutrition unit complex in Bangui and is currently treated as an outpatient. The infant mortality rate is dire in some parts of the country – even 3-4 times higher than emergency thresholds.
The Central African Republic has the second lowest life expectancy in the world (48), tied with Afghanistan. Yet it has not been receiving response from donors. As the violence and chaos continues, support is needed urgently. ACF will continue to strengthen its emergency efforts while doing everything it can to ensure the safety of its humanitarian workers.