11 August 2009Malnutrition is on the rise among children in the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today, appealing for $1.5 million to provide life-saving support. Malnutrition is on the rise among children in the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today, appealing for $1.5 million to provide life-saving support. CAR is one of the most impoverished nations in the world and remains beset by violence and widespread displacement in the north. An estimated 1 million people, out of a population of 4 million, are in need of humanitarian assistance. “In both the conflict-affected north and the more stable south, almost 700,000 children under five are living below acceptable standards. Many are moving toward the outer edge of survival,” said Jeremy Hopkins, acting representative of UNICEF in CAR. Poverty, ongoing insecurity, and loss of income in areas where the diamond mining sector has been impacted by the global economic slowdown are among the causes cited for this situation. Also a factor is the prevalence of HIV in the country, which at 6.3 per cent is the highest in its region and affects the nutritional situation of families. In addition to providing essential food, drugs and supplies, funds from the $1.5 million appeal will also be used to conduct a national nutritional survey, as well as train community health workers in the early detection of children and women whose nutritional health may be at risk. “These children’s lives, their ability to learn, to earn, and to lead productive lives is being stunted by this tragic crisis,” said Mr. Hopkins. “These children could be leading normal lives. We must try harder to fulfil their rights.” Yesterday a senior UN humanitarian official called for urgent action by the international community to assist those in need in CAR. “It’s not like any other humanitarian situation I’ve run across,” Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said as she briefed reporters on her visit to the country two weeks ago.