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Central African Republic

Emergency intervention to support children’s health in the Central African Republic

An emergency vaccination campaign is underway at displacement sites in Bangui, Central African Republic.  Download this video


By Linda Tom

On 21 February, UNICEF launches Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) 2014. This global appeal pulls together the combined needs for those living in the most challenging circumstances – whether large-scale emergencies making headlines around the world or less-visible but no less urgent crises that put the lives and well-being of children and women in danger.

With the aim of providing critical assistance to 85 million people, including 59 million children, the HAC 2014 is the largest humanitarian appeal ever made by UNICEF – $2.2 billion in total – reflecting the increased impact of disasters and emergencies on children around the world.

In the Central African Republic, sectarian violence has torn communities apart and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. As highlighted in this report from January, reaching displaced populations with vaccines and other vital assistance is an urgent priority for UNICEF and its partners.

More recently, the country has seen unprecedented levels of violence against children, with at least 133 children killed and maimed, some of them in horrific ways. UNICEF’s 2014 humanitarian appeal for the country is intended to meet the humanitarian needs of 2.2 million people, including 740,000 children.

BANGUI, Central African Republic, 13 January 2014 – Nearly 20,000 people – half of them children – have sought refuge on the grounds of the Saint Sauveur church in Bangui, one of 67 sites around the city where displaced families are living in precarious conditions.

After weeks of insecurity, people are trying to put their lives back together. A small market has sprung up at the entrance of camp. Small businesses are selling doughnuts, mobile phone credit and barber services.

© UNICEF Video
Yafara, 19, brought her 7-month-old daughter to a UNICEF-supported clinic, where she received treatment for malnutrition.

Among those trying to rebuild their lives is Yafara, a 19-year-old woman who was forced to flee her home with her 7-month-old baby girl. “I am here with my mother, and we have been here for one week. We came here to escape war,” she says in a soft whisper. “We saw our neighbours being attacked and killed. We escaped with clothes for my baby and not much more.”

Yafara has found security at the Saint Sauveur displacement site, but her daughter, Sangama, does not eat well. With overcrowding and poor access to safe water, sanitation and health care, children at the camp are at risk for malnutrition.

Thanks to a UNICEF–supported mobile clinic run by NGO Action Contre la Faim (ACF), Sangama was diagnosed with moderate acute malnutrition and is now being treated with a high-protein ready-to-use therapeutic food.

Silent emergency

The Central African Republic has long been one of the world’s toughest places for children. Even before the latest chapter of violence, the country suffered decades of a silent emergency that has deprived children of education, protection and basic social and health services. Since the recent wave of violence began on 5 December 2013, children have been in even greater need of protection and assistance.

© UNICEF Video
An estimated 10,000 children are living in settlements for displaced people in Bangui, creating a heightened risk of disease outbreaks.

As the crisis has increasingly pitted communities against one another, the lack of security has resulted in the displacement of nearly two thirds of the population of Bangui since 5 December – the majority of them children and women. In the last year, close to half a million children across the country have been displaced, with the most vulnerable hiding in the bush with virtually no access to basic services or humanitarian assistance, and altogether 2.3 million have been affected by the crisis.

One way UNICEF is helping is through screening for malnutrition and conducting an emergency integrated vaccination campaign, which includes immunization against measles and polio, with the addition of vitamin A supplementation and deworming medication.

Potential outbreak

On the other side of the camp, another little girl is getting life-saving health care. Eleven-month-old Maiva Sayet is among the first to be vaccinated on the first day of the vaccination campaign at Saint Sauveur.

Her mother says, “Since we came here, my daughter is often sick, so when I heard about the campaign, I came right away to get her vaccinated.”

The emergency vaccination campaign, which started on 8 January, aims to reach 210,000 children at major displacement sites in the capital.

“With so many people living in overcrowded camps with poor access to health care and water and sanitation, it all adds up to an extremely dangerous situation for children,” says Souleymane Diabaté, UNICEF Representative in the Central African Republic. “All the elements are there for a potentially deadly outbreak of disease, and we must do everything we can to prevent this.”

UNICEF continues to support mobile nutrition clinics at Saint Sauveur and other sites through ACF and other partners.



UNICEF Photography: Mia Farrow promotes polio eradication


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