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Central African Republic

Italian Goodwill Ambassador Roberto Bolle highlights malnutrition in Central African Republic

© Italian National Committee for UNICEF/2010/Pirozzi
Italian Goodwill Ambassador Roberto Bolle speaks to a girl in a therapeutic feeding center at the paediatric hospital in Bangui, CAR, which is supported with funds from the Italian National Committee for UNICEF.

By Brigitte Stark-Merklein

BANGUI, Central African Republic, 30 November 2010 – During a trip here in early November, acclaimed dancer and UNICEF Italy Goodwill Ambassador Roberto Bolle witnessed first-hand the malnutrition crisis afflicting children in CAR.

Mr. Bolle visited nutrition centres where severely malnourished children receive therapeutic feeding in Nola, located in south-western Sangha Mbaéré prefecture; in Bossangoa, north-western Ouham prefecture; and in the capital, Bangui.

“I have been deeply affected by what I saw,” he said. “CAR’s children are among the most forgotten in the world, and I hope that my visit will help draw attention to their plight.”

The trip to CAR inspired Mr. Bolle to dedicate his annual gala to UNICEF. In front of a sold-out house at Rome’s Auditorium della Conciliazione, Mr. Bolle and friends danced on 20 November to raise funds for UNICEF CAR’s child survival and nutrition programmes.

Malnutrition emergency

In CAR, nearly 4 in 10 children are stunted nationwide, with higher rates in areas most affected by the economic crisis, including Nana Mambéré and Sangha Mbaere Provinces.

© Italian National Committee for UNICEF/2010/Pirozzi
UNICEF Italy Goodwill Ambassador Robert Bolle shares a moment of play with a group of children in the outskirts of Nola, south-western CAR.

In the country’s south-west, the rate of child malnutrition has surpassed the emergency classification threshold, with 10 per cent of children under five years of age suffering from global acute malnutrition and up to 3.5 per cent from severe acute malnutrition. In these regions, losses of household income due to cutbacks in the mining sector and decreased foreign demand for diamonds and timber – coupled with increased prices for basic livelihood items – have left families unable to provide for their children.

UNICEF assistance

Malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly half of all child deaths in CAR. The country’s infant and under-five mortality rates are among the highest in the world, while its high HIV prevalence further strains family structures and limited household resources.

To help tackle the crisis and address malnutrition, UNICEF works with a range of partners such as the French non-governmental organization Action Against Hunger, providing therapeutic products, micronutrient supplements, essential drugs, anthropometric equipment and monitoring tools for the management of 1,600 severely malnourished children per month.

“I figured that the one thing I could do to make this trip complete was to go back to my work and dance for Africa,” said Mr. Bolle. “Now I hope that others will do their part and contribute to UNICEF’s work.”

Click here  for coverage of Roberto Bolle’s Gala for UNICEF (in Italian).



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