Central African Republic: an impending hunger crisis threatens to overwhelm a country on the brink

Isidore, 5 months
Five-month-old Isidore, who is being treated for malnourishment at Bambari regional hospital

Central African Republic is being ripped apart by conflict, neglected by the world.

Children and families are suffering and there’s no end in sight.

Earlier this year, things seemed slightly improved. More and more people were beginning to return to their homes.

 

Children forced from their homes – again

Then in May, a fresh surge of violence in the capital, Bangui, prompted families to flee once again.

In total, over 500,000 people – many of them children – have been forced from their homes. Without shelter or access to essential services, they are vulnerable to disease, hunger and attacks by armed groups.

 

A health system in collapse

Our medical teams have treated children as young as three for machete and gunshot wounds. And violence leaves other wounds. Those who have witnessed or experienced the conflict’s horrors will not heal easily. 

A recent assessment found that 95 percent of those surveyed felt they needed psychological support to deal with their experiences. 

But the health system here was already extremely weak before the crisis began; it has now virtually collapsed, leaving an estimated 2.4 million in need of urgent medical care.

 

A food crisis looms

And even the healthy are in danger. Amid the turmoil, food prices have rocketed. Less than a quarter of large-scale food importers now remain in Bangui and 90 percent of farmers are reportedly without the seeds they currently need to sow the next harvest.

Already, there is hunger in CAR. If there is no harvest and the situation deteriorates further, large amounts of the population will be at risk of malnutrition or even death.

1.7 million (45% of the population), are believed to be at Crisis and Emergency levels of food insecurity.

People experiencing extreme hunger are more vulnerable to a host of other diseases and they in turn are more likely to be fatal – especially for children.

 

“I will stay as long as it takes for him to get well”

Isidore was five months old when admitted to Bambari Regional Hospital for a respiratory infection; he was also screened for malnutrition and was then admitted to the Stabilisation Centre, where he will be able to get back to a healthy weight while also recovering from his infection.

“He had a bad a cough and a high temperature so I took him to the health centre in Grimari,” his mother said. “The doctor there said Isidore was very sick. He then called Save the Children and a car came to bring us the 70km to this hospital.

“We don’t know anyone here and my husband and Isidore’s older brother are still in Grimari. But it is okay. We are given two meals a day and all of Isidore’s medication is free.

“I will stay as long as we need to, as long it takes for him to get well.”

 

A neglected crisis for too long

Save the Children is on the ground delivering life-saving medicines, equipment and health supplies to severely depleted healthcare centres and hospitals, ensuring that they have the medications they so desperately need, while supporting the treatment of malnourished children.

But Central African Republic has been a neglected crisis for too long. We urgently need support to ensure that children here are protected from hunger and sickness and can look forward to a better future.

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