Central African Republic - malnourished child

Central African Republic: Alarming increase in severe acute malnutrition

By Christine Kahmann

Mar 21 2014

Malnutrition levels exceed emergency thresholds

The number of children suffering from the most severe form of malnutrition in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, has increased dramatically due to ongoing political insecurity and economic instability. 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.
 
Our teams in the country admitted triple the number of malnourished children into treatment as they have during the same time period in previous years. Between January and February alone, they admitted 2,200 children. During the same period last year, these programmes provided life-saving treatment to 350 children. While the fact that we increased the reach of our programmes account for some of the change, the numbers are certainly a sign of a serious concern for the most vulnerable families in the area.

Health centres forced to close

Compounding the trouble is the fact that health centres in Bangui have been forced to close due to security concerns. If the situation were to improve, many of them could re-open and families would have easier access to treatment. The 10 operational health centres that we support in the area have become overwhelmed, as they are dealing with an ever increasing number of cases from the centres that have been closed.
 
The Paediatric Complex of Bangui, one of the centres we support, usually receives the most severe cases of malnutrition, those that require hospitalisation.
 
"The Paediatric Complex usually has 56 beds available for malnourished children. In February, 256 children had to be admitted to the nutrition unit. Since then we’ve added three large tents to cope with the influx and more may be required soon. Everyone is overwhelmed there and the hospital has reached the limits of its capabilities," explains Nicolas Fuchs, our Country Director in Central African Republic.
 
In addition to supporting health facilities, our mobile teams work to identify and support malnourished children and their families. Information uncovered from these screenings is worrisome; more than 7% of the children screened in February are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. It’s considered an emergency when that rate is 2% 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," adds Nicolas.

Adults suffering from severe acute malnutrition

Our teams also suspect that there are adults in the region suffering from severe acute malnutrition, particularly in landlocked sites. Although adult cases are extremely rare, they’re a strong indicator of the seriousness of the situation.
 
The crisis in the Central African Republic is creating major problems for communities, families, and children. "The humanitarian catastrophe is huge and getting worse. The international humanitarian community must strengthen our financial efforts in order to cope," says Nicolas.
 
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Photo credits:  © ACF R. De Bengy