Three times more children treated for severe acute malnutrition in Bangui hospital than this time last year

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BANGUI, Central African Republic, 25 April 2014 – The number of children being treated for severe acute malnutrition in Bangui’s largest in-patient centre during the first quarter of 2014 has tripled compared to last year, UNICEF said today.

Officials predict the numbers of malnourished children will rise steeply in the coming months in Central African Republic, where the majority of families have been unable to plant their crops or earn their living, and where there is poor access to safe water, sanitation and health care.

“Here in CAR, more children will die from malnutrition and related diseases than from bullets,” said UNICEF Representative in Central African Republic Souleymane Diabaté. “Malnutrition is even more deadly in the rainy season, when diarrhea and malaria are at their peak. Both diseases put the lives of already malnourished children at risk.”

From January to March this year, nearly 680 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition with medical complications at Bangui Pediatric Hospital, compared to 214 children in the same period last year. The hospital is the largest in-patient nutrition treatment center in the country, and two additional tents have already been erected by UNICEF partner Action Against Hunger to accommodate the overflow of malnourished children.

Partners working on nutrition in Central African Republic estimate that 28,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in the country – threatening children’s lives and their future health. So far this year, UNICEF and partners have treated more than 6,800 children for severe acute malnutrition nation-wide thanks to a scale-up of the nutrition response in Central African Republic.

UNICEF and partners are supporting 27 in-patient and 127 out-patient centres for severely malnourished children throughout Central African Republic. This is a large increase compared to 2013, where at the peak of the crisis in March only 14 in-patient centres and 45 out-patient centres were treating children with severe acute malnutrition. Major nutrition partners include Action Against Hunger, African Humanitarian Agency, Caritas, COHEB, Doctors Without Borders, International Medical Corps, INTER-SOS, Medecins du Monde, Premiere Urgence and Save the Children.

Since the beginning of the crisis, UNICEF has been the main provider of nutritional supplies such as therapeutic milk and ready-to-use therapeutic food used in the treatment of severe acute malnutrition. So far this year, UNICEF has supplied more than 4,200 cartons of therapeutic food and therapeutic milk. This month, UNICEF will distribute another 2,600 cartons of therapeutic food throughout the country – which can treat up to 3,000 children.

UNICEF needs $11 million this year to fund therapeutic and preventive nutrition programs for children in Central African Republic. Only $3.8 million of this figure has been raised.

Note to editors

Approximately one in six children do not survive to their fifth birthday in CAR - a mortality rate that ranks among the top six globally. Even before the crisis began in 2013, 40 per cent of young children were affected by growth failure (stunting) nationally and 24 per cent of children were underweight due to poor nutrition.

UNICEF manages the nutrition cluster, a coordination body composed of a number of different actors working in emergency nutrition programming, including: ACF, MSF, IMC, PU-AMI, Croix Rouge Francaise, MDM, Merlin, Save the Children, INTERSOS, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, FAO, AHA and COHEB.

With now more than 150 staff on the ground, UNICEF has considerably and rapidly scaled up its humanitarian presence/operations in CAR to be able to adequately respond to the growing magnitude and severity of this crisis. UNICEF is strengthening its field presence by adding staff in established field offices in Bossangoa, Bambari and Kaga Bandoro as well as coordinating outreach strategies in the west and south-west of the country.

About UNICEF UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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For more information, please contact:
Madeleine Logan, UNICEF Bangui, Tel: +236 70738470,
Laurent Duvillier, UNICEF Dakar, Tel: +221 77 740 35 77,
Kent Page, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 212 326 7605, Mobile: +1 917 302 1735;