A Doctor's Call for Help Answered

Action Against Hunger responds to malnutrition crisis in the Central African Republic

Until recently, the southern part of the Central African Republic was relatively stable economically, boasting large diamond and wood industries. But over the last few months, a decline in these industries, coupled with poor investment in local agriculture and a reliance on imported food, have put enormous pressure on the population. Acute malnutrition, often a telltale sign of a larger crisis, has begun to surface.

Last June, a doctor from the city of Carnot appealed for help via his local radio station. During the broadcast, he pleaded with local authorities, along with the international community, to help him treat an unprecedented number of acutely malnourished children arriving at his hospital.

Action Against Hunger mobilized quickly to carry out rapid nutritional assessments in Carnot, Berberati and other neighboring areas, and we uncovered a high percentage of children suffering severe acute malnutrition. In Carnot, more than one in five children was diagnosed with this life-threatening condition.

Our teams launched an emergency response, establishing temporary inpatient therapeutic Stabilization Centers in local hospitals, setting up outpatient community-based nutrition programs, and sending teams of nutritionists on home visits. The news spread fast, and families across the affected area brought their children for medical check-ups and treatment. The doctor’s call for help was answered.

Action Against Hunger is now assessing the extent of the malnutrition crisis to determine what further action is needed. We recruited a local team to carry out additional nutrition surveys in Berberati—the third largest city in the country—and trained them to diagnose acute malnutrition by taking specific height and weight measurements and looking for other key indicators of the condition. The team travelled all over Berberati, assessing over 1,000 households in just two weeks.

The survey data, currently being assembled, will be critical in helping Action Against Hunger determine the next steps in tackling the underlying causes of malnutrition in the region. Meanwhile, our emergency programs to save lives immediately threatened by the condition continue.