Responding to food insecurity and malnutrition

Central African Republic | 2022 | CBPF

Central African Republic, Kaga-Bandoro. It is Tuesday morning and a cluster of women and their babies gather under a blue canopy at a site for internally displaced persons (IDPs), where the children, who all suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), receive weekly treatment.

Jonvienne, 20, sits on a straw mat as her 18-month-old daughter, Richardine, crawls on the ground.  The baby is tiny for her age. She cannot stand – her muscles are too weak. Two weeks ago, community health volunteers identified her as malnourished and referred her for treatment.

“The child had been sick for a while, but I didn’t know what she had and worried a lot,” Jonvienne says. Since birth, Richardine has only drunk breast milk. “And now, milk has become scarce,” says Jonvienne, who has been living at the IDP site for 10 years. “I don’t think I eat enough to produce milk.”.

Food shortages and malnutrition are alarming in the Central African Republic, which is mired in a conflict that has triggered massive displacement, and is struggling with widespread poverty exacerbated by rising prices, fuel shortages and deteriorating infrastructure.

A total of 2.7 million people are acutely food insecure, according to September 2022 Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) estimates. This represents 44 per cent of the population, one of the world’s highest levels of food insecurity.  About 400,000 people, or 6.6 per cent of the population, suffer from acute malnutrition, according to a 2022 SMART analysis.

Against this backdrop, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated US$15 million – through its rapid response mechanism – in mid-2022, to benefit 200,000 people in 10 sub-prefectures where food insecurity is most severe. The allocation enabled six United Nations organizations and partner NGOs to expand food distributions, cash transfers and livelihood support, as well as nutritional support and access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities.

Thanks to the funding, the NGO Médecins d’Afrique has been treating 1,369 children aged 6-59 months for SAM at the three IDP sites and 10 health facilities in Kaga-Bandoro. The children receive ready-to-use therapeutic food, antibiotics, anti-malarial medicine, deworming tablets and Vitamin A.

The children’s mothers are also given soap and water purifiers, buckets and containers to store water, and reusable sanitary pads – critical supplies given that inadequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene is responsible for about 50 per cent of global malnutrition. Education sessions are held weekly, with topics including healthy diets for babies and young children, best breastfeeding practices, age-appropriate foods for young children and the importance of hygiene in food preparation.

More information on the Central African Republic Humanitarian Fund: