|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow holds a malnourished baby girl in a health centre in the town of Garga Sarali, near Bertoua, capital of Cameroon’s East Province. The child is a refugee from the Central African Republic.|
By Salma Zulfiqar
BAZZAMA, Cameroon, 17 September 2009 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow has been witnessing a silent emergency in Cameroon during a weeklong trip here.
Ms. Farrow visited a UNICEF-supported nutrition centre in Bazzama village, eastern Cameroon, where refugees fleeing instability in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) also come for help.
The facility offers special care for malnourished children. Such services are urgently needed; tens of thousands of Cameroonian children die from the effects malnutrition every year.
Food distribution day
Visiting the centre on food distribution day, Ms. Farrow met women who were advised on how to prevent malnutrition among their families and, in particular, their children.
The actress and children’s advocate, who has travelled extensively in the region, said she hoped her trip would highlight the gravity of the problems facing Cameroon.
“In a country of relative wealth, a middle-income country, there is really no need for 52,000 children to die each year of malnutrition,” she said.
Listening to mothers
Ms. Farrow talked to mothers and listened to their concerns as they clutched their malnourished babies in the village of Garga Sarali, also in the east.
“Cameroonians have hosted many numbers – a quarter of a million from neighbouring countries,” she said. “So I wanted to see how it was going, how the people are feeling, how they are surviving and how they feel about returning.”
|During immunization activities at a health centre in Garga Sarali, located in Cameroon’s East Province, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow (foreground, right) listens as a UN refugee agency staff member speaks with a group of refugee women and children from the Central African Republic.|
Cameroon is home to 63,000 refugees from CAR, who make up the single largest refugee population in the country. They’ve been arriving for several years to escape conflict and violence at home. Malnutrition is a major concern for both the refugees and their host communities.
Food and health assistance
UNICEF is supporting 176 nutrition centres and 19 hospitals across Cameroon to provide refugees and local households with food and health assistance, but the agency needs additional funding to continue supporting these programmes.
Four out of 10 regions in the country have high malnutrition rates. Ms Farrow said she hoped her visit would prompt more action on this critical issue.
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