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Africa

Bleak future for Central African children

An estimated 42 percent of population does not even know where next meal is coming from.
Last modified: 11 Apr 2013 00:19
The story of toddler Francisca Sanzaza is one of pain and suffering [Nazanine Moshiri]

Families only come to Bangui's Children's Hospital when traditional medicines aren't working, and their children are clearly severely malnourished.

The story of Francisca Sanzaza, the tiny frail toddler in my report, is one of pain and suffering. Her family escaped from Damarra a town some 75 km from Bangui, on the frontline of the fight for the capital.

Francisca's mother was two months pregnant. So, when she fell down hard, she starting bleeding and there was nothing her husband or her mother in law could do to save her. She died, and was buried by people in a local village.

Her grandmother brought Francisca to the hospital last week; doctors say she is so weak, they don't know whether she will make it.

Her grandmother Marie says that if she does live, she doesn't how they will survive the year. Here Marie receives a healthy meal of rice and fish everyday, and Francisca gets a lifesaving treatment called plumpy nut, which is a peanut based paste.

When they return home they have absolutely nothing to eat.

There has always been food insecurity in Central African Republic, but the figures right now are bleak. The UN Children's Fund says two million children are without basic social services and are exposed to violence.

An estimated 42 percent of the population doesn't know where their next meal is coming from, and less than 30 percent have access to health services.

When the rebel group Seleka took control of many parts of the country, a number of its soldiers stole seed sticks and destroyed crops.

Not enough to feed

The worry now is that this year’s harvest may not be enough to feed people.

"MSF remains extremely concerned for the well-being and health of the population," said Sylvain Groulx, Médecins Sans Frontières head of mission in Bangui.

"Even in times of peace, people endure daily hardships just to survive. Before the recent events, mortality rates related to preventable and treatable diseases were already above emergency thresholds in many areas of the country. The insecurity today is pushing already fragile coping mechanisms to the limit."

MSF also says that its medical teams were forced to evacuate the towns of Batangafo and Kabo due to looting and other violence.

MSF is the only humanitarian organisation providing medical care in the area, which has a population of more than 130,000 people.

It also says that similar incidents have forced its international staff to evacuate the town of Boguila, where a skeleton team of local personnel continues to operate a hospital.

One of the biggest problems for aid workers is that they just don't know how bad things in the remote parts of the country.

What Central African Republic needs right now is some stability, so people can farm their land, and feed themselves.