CAR children killed by malnutrition more than bullets

UN says more children killed by malnutrition and hunger than bullets in three years of conflict of Central African Republic

Photo by: OCHA/Gemma Cortes
Photo by: OCHA/Gemma Cortes

January 2016. Ndiffa, CAR. Two months after admission in IMC nutritional programme 8-month Ibrahim has gained 700 grams in weight.

Malnutrition, malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhea have killed more children than three years of armed conflict has in the Central African Republic, the United Nations said on Monday.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the mortality rate of children under the age of five reached “emergency levels” as it marked a “significant increase since pre-crisis level.”

The UN’s humanitarian office OCHA also earlier reported in its March issue that in 11 out of the 16 prefectures across the country, one in six children are acutely malnourished due to widespread poverty, a fragile health system, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and poor infant-feeding practices.

The OCHA report quoted a woman from the Vakaga region, Rakia Ahamath, in which she said that she could not find much to eat so she didn’t have enough milk to feed her baby.

“We have been unable to be self-sufficient for the past years. It is a big problem,” she said.

However, the report argued, a “combination of conflict and severely restricted access to food” has caused a sharper spike in acute malnutrition rates in 2016, as much as two times higher than it was in 2015.

A mother tends to her child, who is suffering from malnutrition, at a pediatrics hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic, February 25, 2014.

Nigerian doctor Dr Sambo Souley, who runs a nutrition programme in Vakaga, said violence in the area has made the few qualified health agents in the area unable to function, when they previously did not even receive enough humanitarian support.

“Malnutrition is closely linked to the conflict in the region, while the absence of a State presence and doctors are worsening it,” said the doctor.

According to the food security assessment of the World Food Programme (WFP) in February 2016, the conflict opened way to losses of harvest and led to crop yields being sold at exceptionally high prices.

WFP Deputy Country Director Guy Adoua stated in the assessment report that the emergency level was not the “usual run-of-the-mill emergency.”

He warned that a child could not survive on a poor diet, which currently consists of manioc and beans for the children of the Central African Republic, which they consume just once a day. “People are left with nothing,” said Adoua. 

UN says immediate emergency food assistance would not help hunger and malnutrition in the long term even if it is needed urgently. The country will need long term investments to stem CAR’s crumbling public services, widespread poverty and mass unemployment in order to keep children alive once stability returns in the country.

Dujarric stated that the UN needs $531 million to help some 1.9 million people in need in Central African Republic. 

Central African Republic has recently made headlines because of allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by international peacekeepers in the country including from the UN and France.

TRTWorld and agencies