4 July 2014

Cameroon: Alarming Levels of Malnutrition Among Refugee Children and Women From CAR

press release

Yaounde/Dakar — In Cameroon, up to 1 out of 3 refugee children from Central African Republic suffer from malnutrition, a recent United Nations assessment found.

"Children who have survived the horror in the Central African Republic are now at risk of dying from malnutrition and its complications," said Félicité Tchibindat, UNICEF Representative in Cameroon. "Death is stalking these children. It is alarming to see entire families undernourished - including older children and women."

Since December last year, more than 100,000 Central African refugees - over half are children - have entered Cameroon after walking and hiding in the bush for weeks, and at times for months. Among them, between 20 to 30 per cent of children under five arrived suffering from malnutrition, a rate almost twice as high as the 15 per cent considered 'critical' in most emergency situations.

Other findings of the assessment include:

- Some 1 out of 5 pregnant and lactating refugee mothers also arrived in Cameroon malnourished, which puts their babies at increased risk.

- At least 17 per cent of children admitted into inpatients facilities suffering from malnutrition are over 5 years old.

Members of the mission, who included experts from UNICEF, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), reported seeing hospital wards with a lot of emaciated, sick children, two to three in a bed.

The risk of severe acute malnutrition, which can be deadly if left untreated, is particularly high. In the inpatient center of Batouri close to the border, the mortality rate in May exceeded 24 per cent.

Working with partners on the ground, UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP are stepping up their efforts to provide these children and their families with the nutrition assistance they need. All children below the age of 10 are receiving supplementary feeding and ready to use therapeutic foods.

Mobile clinics will also provide nutritional assistance to malnourished children residing with host communities.

Since March 2014, more than 1,600 children with severe acute malnutrition were admitted in the therapeutic feeding centers available at the arrival points and refugees sites and hospitals. Another 9,000 children and 2,000 mothers received supplementary feeding. In total, more than 50,000 people were provided with food assistance through UN agencies and NGOs.

"It is no exaggeration to say this nutrition crisis has well surpassed critical level," said Gian Carlo Cirri, WFP Cameroon Country Director a.i. 'WFP is implementing an aggressive response to ensure the absolute maximum nutrition support.'

Despite the urgency, of $9 million requested for the nutrition response for Central African refugees in Cameroon in the strategic response plan, only 2 per cent have been received so far. Additional lives will be lost if the international community does not step up its support.

For more information please contact:

Laure Bassek, UNICEF in Yaounde, Tel: +237 22 50 54 00, Cell: + 237 75 296 971, lbassek@unicef.org

Laurent Duvillier, UNICEF in Dakar, Tel: +221 338 69 76 42, Cell: + 221 77 740 35 77, lduvillier@unicef.org

Najwa Mekki, UNICEF in New York, Tel: +1212 326 7448, Cell: +1917 209 1804, nmekki@unicef.org

Fabienne Pompey, WFP in Dakar, Tel: +221 77 637 59 64, Fabienne.pompey@wfp.org

Sofia Engdahl, WFP in Cameroon Tel: (+237)22 23 17 28 cell (+237) 75 39 49 56; sofia.engdahl@wfp.org

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