August 19, 2009

On July 23, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened a malnutrition treatment program in Carnot, a city in southwestern Central African Republic. Almost 400 severely malnourished children have already been admitted.

Alerted to the problem by the country's health authorities, MSF set up a malnutrition treatment program in the hospital in Carnot. By August 9, around two weeks after the project opened, close to 390 malnourished children had been admitted. The vast majority were suffering from severe malnutrition, with 40 percent requiring immediate hospitalization.

In June, before the hospital registered a significant increase in the number of malnutrition cases, local health authorities were already alarmed by the situation. In coordination with the ministry of health, an MSF team conducted a rapid nutritional evaluation. The results were staggering: 42 of the 62 children hospitalized were severely malnourished with others awaiting treatment displaying similar symptoms. In the city of Carnot, results confirmed the initial suspicion as more than 20 percent of tested children showed signs of malnutrition.

Southwestern CAR is known as a hotspot for the diamond industry, but this sector has been in crisis for months, with several purchasing offices in Carnot being forced to close. However, the economic slowdown alone does not explain the rise in severe malnutrition cases.

The deteriorating nutritional situation extends beyond the city of Carnot—organizations including Action Against Hunger have recently also opened nutritional projects in the region and MSF might launch a project in Gamboula, a city located 80 miles southwest of Carnot.