Photos: Christophe Da Silva for Action Against Hunger
Voices from the Central African Republic
We're continuing to reach children affected by hunger as a result of conflict in the Central African Republic.
Nov 30 2018
The Central African Republic is one of Africa's forgotten conflicts. Since serious violence and fighting between militias, government forces and other armed groups swept the capital Bangui in 2013, conflict has spread across the country and continued.
The consequences of violent conflict are deepening with each passing year. In 2017, half a million Central Africans were estimated to be refugees while the number of internally displaced persons rose by a staggering 50 per cent last year leaving one quarter of the entire population displaced. Two weeks ago, over 40 people were killed in an attack on a refugee base in Alindao alone.
This conflict has generated a silent crisis across the country which needs solving urgently: hunger and severe acute malnutrition. The Central African Republic's hunger crisis, caused by the brutal bush war, is not an anomaly. It is one country - like Yemen, Lake Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Nigeria - where hunger and conflict walk hand-in-hand. Today, it is estimated that 60% of undernourished people around the world live in a war-zone as families face a daily struggle to survive due to deliberate acts of burning agricultural land, poisoning water wells, bombing food markets and destroying or confiscating harvests.
ACTION AGAINST HUNGER IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Children are some of the most vulnerable to hunger during times of war. Despite the difficult context, our 260 staff members continue to work to help malnourished children and their families get the support they need. Many of these people were able to tell us their stories of how conflict is harming their children’s nutrition and wellbeing.
ERNESTINE AND PRISCILLA
"I came across little Priscilla five years ago." says Ernestine. At 57, Ernestine, who lives in a small village on the road to Bouali, takes care of Priscilla, 7, an orphan. "Her parents are dead, she has only me," continues Ernestine, who now acts as grandmother. The daily life of Ernestine, however, is not easy as her livelihood as a farmer has been hampered by armed conflict. A month ago, Priscilla started to cough. As her condition deteriorated, Ernestine took her to the Action Against Hunger paediatric centre in Bangui. On arrival, Priscilla weighed only twelve kilos. "She had no appetite, her stomach had swelled and I knew she needed treatment," said Ernestine. Diagnosed with malnutrition, Priscilla was taken care of and eventually she started regaining her appetite and also began gaining weight. After five days of treatment, she now weighs thirteen kilos.
JOSIANE AND FIRMINE
Josiane is 32 years old, and she has given birth to seven children. Sadly she lost one of them, who died of severe acute malnutrition a few years ago. Her last child, Firmine, is 2 years old. Firmine accompanies her in focus group sessions on breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding practices which have been implemented by Action Against Hunger in the Kokoro community since 2016. Prior to the 2013 conflict, Josiane was a street vendor of vegetables and her husband was in full-time employment. "In 2013, because of violence, my entire family was forced to flee to Mpoko camp to avoid looting, robbery and killings." Since her return to Kokoro in 2014, she and her husband have been unable to generate an income. They live with their parents and their children, and the lack of financial means impacts both the nutritional and psychological health of the whole family. "I am suffering from mental disorders today, and my children are short of food," says Josiane. At the Kokoro Community Centere, Josiane receives counselling and learns practices to take care of her children and herself through focus groups and games and relaxation sessions. "I am grateful to Action Against Hunger for the assistance offered several times a week in terms of psychological support and good breastfeeding and feeding practices," she says.
LEONIE AND BENADIA
Little Benadia is 9 months old, and he lost both his parents to violence. "The Seleka came, and they killed both parents," said Leonie, Benadia’s grandmother. From that moment, the little boy started to be sick: "He was not eating anymore, he was not playing anymore. I came to Action Against Hunger's facilities to find help," she said. Upon arrival, the boy received ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat his malnutrition, and received a hygiene kit containing a bucket, jerry cans, bleach, and soap. "Without Action Against Hunger, I do not know where my grandson would be today. He has already lost his parents, but now he is in good health."
MARIAM AND ADAMA
At four months, the little Adama weighs just three kilos. The grandmother of the child, Mariam, has been raising the girl since the death of her mother as a result of an illness. Mariam has already lost her husband, killed by rebels because he was a Muslim. Mariam, forced from her home, became a refugee and fled to Cameroon in 2013, where she stayed for four years. Since her return, Mariam has nothing: no job, no food, no husband and her granddaughter was suffering from severe diarrhoea and weight loss. She went to the Action Against Hunger health centre for treatment. Mariam is reassured to be there "At least we can treat her illness and feed her properly," she said.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
This Christmas, despite the rise of hunger as result of armed conflict becoming an indisputable reality, our work continues and we need your help. Action Against Hunger is working in countries such as the Central African Republic, Yemen, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo to support families suffering from malnutrition due to hunger being used as a weapon of war. We’re calling on the international community to act now to end hunger in conflict-zones and to raise awareness we’ve melted down bullets & made them into knives & forks for our #StopHungerCrime campaign here.