Responding to the urgent needs of children in Central African Republic
Central African Republic is facing a humanitarian crisis. UNICEF is on the ground, working with partners to respond to the urgent needs of children.
By Linda Tom
The Central African Republic is facing a devastating humanitarian crisis. With limited resources, UNICEF continues to be present on the ground, working with partners to respond to the needs of children like Gracia.
BANGUI, Central African Republic, 28 June 2013 – “I came here because my child was sick,” says Manuella Zokwe. “I tried to force her to eat, but she would not.”
Ms. Zokwe has brought Gracia, 21 months, to a nutrition clinic in Bangui. Gracia is one of an estimated 57,000 children in the Central African Republic who are at risk for moderate and severe malnutrition.
Risk of malnutrition spikes
In Central African Republic, the violence that started in December 2012 has forced thousands of people to flee their homes.
The level of risk of malnutrition is particularly high among conflict-affected populations, who are often forced to flee without an adequate supply of food and provisions. In an emergency context, children are particularly vulnerable, as malnutrition weakens the immune system and makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases such as measles.
Judicaelle Zoktinamsse, a farmer from Damara, says, “For two days, I was in the bush with my children and other mothers to Sibut. Then, we continued into the bush to Bangui for nearly one week. During that time, we had no food or drinking water.’’
Manuella Zokwe and her daughter Gracia Pingaya, 21 months, at a paediatric complex in Bangui. Gracia is one of an estimated 57,000 children in the Central African Republic who are at risk for moderate and severe malnutrition.
Health care interrupted
The latest crisis has interrupted even the most basic services. Health centres and hospitals across the country have been looted, and doctors and nurses have fled the most affected areas. “We live in fear because we do not know what will happen next,” says Patricia Nalimo, a nurse at the Bangui Paediatric Hospital.
“We are even afraid to come to work,” she continues. “There are gun shots and stray bullets. A stray bullet landed on the roof. Fortunately, it did not hit a child.”
Response for children like Gracia
In the face of these challenges, UNICEF is responding to the needs of malnourished children in Central African Republic. The organization is supporting nutritional centres such as the one at Bangui Paediatric Hospital in which Gracia is recovering, and putting on weight.
“Here, she is given therapeutic milk from the morning until 9:00 at night,” explains Ms. Zokwe. “We have been here since Thursday, and we have fun with the toys provided and the other children who are here,” she adds.
Since the coup d’etat in March 2013, UNICEF has been supporting therapeutic and outpatient nutrition centres by enabling the resumption of nutrition services through the purchase of supplies. UNICEF has distributed 4,458 boxes of ready-to-use-therapeutic food to partners on the ground, targeting nutrition centres in the most affected areas. During the same period, UNICEF has distributed basic health kits, essential drugs and equipment to hospitals, health centres and partners to cover the needs of 164,000 people over three months.
The Central African Republic is facing a devastating humanitarian crisis affecting the entire population of 4.6 million people, half of whom are children. With limited resources, UNICEF continues to be present on the ground to work with partners to respond to the needs of women and children.
However, insecurity across the country has disrupted health, education and other services, limited people’s access to food, water and sanitation and placed children at risk of violence, exploitation and separation from their homes and families.
Humanitarian needs have significantly increased since the crisis began in December 2012. “An estimated 1.2 million people have been cut off from basic services since December,” says UNICEF Representative Souleymane Diabate. “We need to act quickly to provide emergency life-saving interventions to women and children wherever access permits. However, UNICEF and partners are seeking urgent funding to respond to affected populations in this forgotten crisis.”
To respond to the crisis, UNICEF is expanding emergency interventions to meet pressing needs on the ground. Thanks to the generosity of donors, US$9 million has already been raised. However, an additional US$23 million is needed for an immediate scale-up in response.