Nutrition Emergency Declared in Central African Republic
A nutritional survey carried out by Action Against Hunger in July 2009 in the city of Berbérati (Mambéré-Kadeï region to the west of the capital Bangui) has revealed that 7% of the children screened were suffering from the most serious form of malnutrition: severe acute malnutrition. World Health Organisation standards define the nutritional emergency threshold at 2% severe acute malnutrition. The situation in Berbérati is therefore critical, with 1,100 children in a life-threatening condition. An emergency team has been dispatched to support the Action Against Hunger teams already present in the area and respond to cases of severe acute malnutrition.
ACF's Emergency Response
In the Central African Republic, 50% of people only eat once a day, and their diet is almost exclusively composed of manioc. In the Berbérati region, more than 37% of children under five years old are chronically underweight. It only took the smallest trigger to transform this already serious situation into a full blown nutritional crisis.
Mining and commercial activities in Berbérati have experienced a sudden slowdown over the last several months, resulting in a significant socio-economic decline. Despite conditions that favor agriculture, the region’s economy revolves around the mining industry, to such an extent that the population imports most of its food from other areas of the country. This lack of local agricultural production, combined with the recent loss of income and a spike in international food prices, has led to a severe food shortage in the area.
The Central African Republic: A Forgotten Country
The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world: it ranks 178 out of 179 on the UNDP Human Development Index, with 80% of its population living on less than 2 dollars per day. Life expectancy has decreased on average by six months every year since 1996 and now stands at less than 40 years. More than half the population subsists on less than one meal per day and the AIDS prevalence rate is one of the highest in Central Africa. .
The causes are many: the aftermath of a succession of politico-military crises; the impact of food and economic crises and an extremely unstable regional environment. Compared to neighboring countries like Sudan, the Central African Republic has received relatively little international attention. Its nutritional sector in particular, despite the great needs, has been neglected by donors. Action Against Hunger has worked in the country’s north-western regions of Bangui and Bossangoa since 2006.
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