Central African Republic : Responding to the urgent needs of malnourished children

The Central African Republic has suffered multiple political and security crises since 2013. These crises adversely affected the population’s access to basic services, particularly health services, which were already fragile and dysfunctional before the crisis. In 2021, more than half of the country’s population, or 2,571,343 people, were in need of humanitarian health assistance, 17% more than in 2020.

A nurse measures a child’s arm circumference, which can detect malnutrition. | © Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

The nutritional situation is very worrying in CAR.

205,642 children are in need of urgent treatment for global acute malnutrition (GAM). 62,327 children aged 6 to 59 months suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and are at risk of dying without immediate treatment[1].

In response, Première Urgence Internationale, in partnership with the French Red Cross (FRC) and Action Against Hunger (Action Contre la Faim, ACF), has been conducting a project to support the health system and provide medical-nutritional assistance in the city of Bangui, the country’s capital, since July 2018. These actors have coordinated to intervene in 14 health centers in the capital, where malnourished children can be treated.


But the fight against malnutrition also involves informing the population in advance. The community relays, people identified by Première Urgence Internationale, ACF and FRC, within their neighborhoods, ensure the identification and awareness of the nutrition of infants and young children, especially among young mothers.

When cases of malnutrition are detected, the children concerned are taken to the nearest health center, where more complete examinations are carried out. Children with uncomplicated malnutrition are directly treated by the health staff. They are given “plumpy nuts”, a high-energy peanut-based paste, to be consumed regularly. A monitoring is then carried out in order to note the evolution of the children’s weight and to avoid the abandoning of the program.

A malnourished child eats a “plumpy nut” received at the health center | © Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

Children suffering from severe acute malnutrition with complications are referred to the Therapeutic Nutritional Units (TNU); special healthcare structures with more advanced capacities, which will take care of them. Finally, nutritional assistance will be complemented by psychosocial support for the child and his or her carer; in order to explore the potential causes of malnutrition, which can be very diverse.

All the care provided in the centers supported by Première Urgence Internationale, the French Red Cross and Action Against Hunger is intended for all children suffering from malnutrition and their support is entirely free.

Investing in the health care system

In order to ensure the continuation of health care for children in the future, the targeted health centers are equipped with materials; and the health personnel are trained to take care of their patients.

The community relays are also supported technically, financially and with materials. Regular monitoring and supervision visits are carried out to ensure that theoretical training is put into practice. The consortium of three NGOs also supports the health centers in ordering, transporting and stocking nutritional inputs.


As part of the detection of malnutrition, a child is weighed at the health center.

In one year, 116,739 children were detected for malnutrition. 3469 were treated for severe acute malnutrition, and 351 children with complications were referred to hospital. 4326 parents and accompanying persons, with their children, benefited from psychosocial care.

This project was set up thanks to the support of the Bêkou fund.

[1] Humanitarian Needs Overview, Central African Republic, 2021

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