The battle to save Central African Republic’s starving children

The line of parents waiting to see doctors stretches back outside the hospital into the dusty courtyard. Mums and dads…

The line of parents waiting to see doctors stretches back outside the hospital into the dusty courtyard. Mums and dads carrying weak, starving children. Many hanging limply in their arms like half empty sacks of rice.

The scene at the paediatric complex in Bangui, capital of Central African Republic, is not dissimilar to a war zone. And as conflict tears through the country, people here are desperately fighting another deadly foe: hunger.

In a doorway, a young girl stands with the round shape of her belly protruding out above her skinny legs.

A few metres away another malnourished girl sits barefoot, joints protruding, with shoulder blades poking out of her skin like blades, a baggy top the only clothing to cling to her perished frame.

“Central African Republic is one of the most difficult countries to be a child,” Donaig Le Dru, UNICEF spokesperson in CAR, told AFP.

The statistics underline the horrors that stalk childhood in the country.

Infant mortality in CAR is the highest in the world, according to the UN.

One in 24 children die in the first 28 days of life.

The number of children with severe or acute malnutrition rose from around 32,000 to 43,000 between 2014 and the end of 2018.

And two out of three children — 1.5 million youngsters in total — are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UNICEF.