Free From Hunger online exhibition: the Central African Republic

Free From Hunger online exhibition: the Central African Republic

Today, over 150 million children are malnourished and this contributes to three million child deaths each year. Our new exhibition, featuring images from the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Liberia, shares the stories of the individuals behind these statistics.

Three award-winning photographers worked on the project and each brought their own distinct style and perspective to depict the issue of hunger in their own way.

The exhibition is on display at the More London Riverside development near Tower Bridge, London until the end of October 2019. However, if you can’t make it in person, or if you just can't wait to have a sneak peek, here are some of the images and stories from the Central African Republic that will feature.

The exhibition is part of Concern’s Free From Hunger appeal. Money raised from the appeal will help ensure mothers and babies get the food, water, nutrition and healthcare they need to recover from malnourishment and stay strong and healthy in the long term.  All donations received before 24 December will be matched pound for pound by the UK government, ensuring even more children get the nutritious food and healthcare they need to reach their full potential. 

This matched funding will go towards Concern’s work to improve the health and nutrition of mothers and children under five in the Central African Republic, where poor nutrition has led to the country being ranked as the world’s hungriest. The country has one of the world’s highest rates of child mortality, ongoing conflict has severely affected the livelihoods and living conditions of over half of the population, and over a million people have been forced from their homes, severely affecting households’ livelihoods and access to food. 

The Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) is the world’s hungriest country. Conflict has severely affected over half the population and over a million people have been forced from their homes, devastating people’s livelihoods and access to food.

This crisis has also considerably weakened CAR’s healthcare system, leaving health facilities partially or completely destroyed, or non-functional due to insecurity, lack of medication and equipment.

Unsurprisingly, the country has one of the world’s highest rates of child mortality.

Dutch photographer Chris de Bode travelled to CAR and said:

I chose to photograph people’s possessions in the style of Dutch 17th century still lifes to try and give a different perspective on what life is like for people who live in some of the poorest communities in the world.

Chris de Bode - Photographer

Olivier

Olivier is chairman of a Concern-supported group that cultivates corn, sweet potatoes and groundnuts, as well as other crops, on a small plot of land. Pictured is a mango, knife, trumpet, corn seeds, money, mushrooms, lemongrass, sweet potatoes and malaria treatment tablets. Photo: Chris de Bode
Olivier is chairman of Concern-supported group that cultivates crops. Pictured are some belongings.
Father-of-five Olivier Mbesse (53) with some of the 100 kilo sacks of corn harvested by his local seed multiplication group. Olivier is chairman of the Concern-supported group, made up of 15 members – eight women and seven men. Together, they cultivate corn, groundnuts and beans on a small plot of land outside of Bossembele town. They sell some of their crop seeds at fixed prices to non-governmental organisations and the rest to farmers at local markets and seed fairs. Photographer: Chris de Bode
Olivier with some of the sacks of corn harvested by his local seed multiplication group.

Shown above: Mango, knife, trumpet, corn seeds, money, mushrooms, lemongrass, sweet potatoes and malaria treatment tablets.

53-year- old Olivier is chairman of a Concern-supported group that cultivates corn, sweet potatoes and groundnuts, as well as other crops, on a small plot of land.

Recurring bouts of conflict have driven farmers repeatedly from their land, leaving fields abandoned. When they return, many do not have seeds to plant or are reluctant to plant crops without a stable future in sight.

As a result crop production has dropped, food prices have increased and many people are left without reliable access to food. Concern works with the group to improve the quality of their seeds, grow their income and increase the availability of seeds at local markets.

Olivier said:

We appreciate the support we have received from Concern – they have done a great job helping us be productive with our seeds… we have come together as a cooperative so that we can help each other maker a better life for ourselves.

Olivier

Estella

Pictured is some orange peel and a charcoal lump. Estella is part of Gbadengue village seed group, which receives seeds, tools and advice from Concern. Photo: Chris de Bode
Pictured is some orange peel and a charcoal lump. Estella is part of a Concern-supported seed group.
Estella Bissabogoyo (28) with her husband Gustave (31) and four of their children Jordy (8), Israella (4), Corine (3) and Jupsie (2) outside their home in the village of Gbadengue. Estella is part of a village seed group to receive seeds, tools and technical assistance from Concern. Photographer: Chris de Bode
Estella Bissabogoyo with her husband and four of their children Jordy outside their home.

Shown above: Orange peel and a charcoal lump.

Estella, 28, is part of Gbadengue village seed group, which receives seeds, tools and advice from Concern. Estella says the seeds will make a big difference to her family. Currently, she and her family face many difficulties. Her husband makes and sells charcoal (like that pictured) and often has to wait up to a fortnight before being paid, which means they cannot buy food.

We hope that after the harvest we will have enough to buy food and medicine for the children. It will make a difference to our family. I am glad that I have been chosen [to be part of the seed group] and am happy that I will be working together with others in the community – to share our experiences and to improve our lives.

Estella

Marie

Pictured are Marie's amaranth leaves, pot full of ‘termite’ wood (used as a traditional cure for stomach ache), a book of religious hymns and hoe. Photo: Chris de Bode
Pictured are Marie's amaranth leaves, pot full of ‘termite’ wood, a book of religious hymns and hoe.
Marie Mbendu (40) with 15-month-old twins Dorcas, in her arms, and Moise, on her back, at Gbandengue Health Facility, which is supported by Concern. Dorcas has recovered from severe acute malnutrition after she was admitted to the clinic nine months ago. But now, Moise is severely malnourished and is receiving treatment. Photographer: Chris de Bode
Marie Mbendu with 15-month-old twins Dorcas, in her arms, and Moise, on her back.

Shown above: Amaranth leaves, pot full of ‘termite’ wood (used as a traditional cure for stomach ache), a book of religious hymns and a hoe.

40-year-old Marie has 15-month-old twins, Moise and Dorcas. Dorcas has now recovered from severe acute malnutrition after she was admitted to the Concern clinic when she was six months old, weighing just 4.2kgs. Now, Moise is being treated for malnutrition and diarrhoea.

After undergoing an emergency caesarean, Marie is unable to help her husband on their small plot of land. She said:

If Concern was not here, things would have been much worse. I wouldn’t have been able to afford medicine for my children – so they would not have been treated.

Marie

Alpha

Thirty-year-old Alpha says that every day is a struggle. Pictured is fermented cassava, tortoise shell (the flesh is eaten). Sometimes she only eats once a day. Photo: Chris de Bode
Pictured here is fermented cassava, tortoise shell (the flesh is eaten).
Two weeks ago, Concern health workers diagnosed Alpha Gamene’s 17-month-old daughter Nicoles as severely malnourished. After visiting Concern-supported Gbandengu Health Facility, Nicoles was given ready-to-use therapeutic food for malnutrition. Since then, she has put on more than half a kilo. “I appreciate the support I get from the health centre for my child, otherwise things would be different – and she might have died," said Alpha. Photographer: Chris de Bode
Alpha pictured here with Nicoles, who was given treatment for malnutrition by Concern.

Shown above: Fermented cassava and tortoiseshell (the flesh is eaten).

Thirty-year-old Alpha says that every day is a struggle. Her husband was killed by an armed group during the crisis. She has to work in the fields for other people in order to earn a little money for food, and often struggles to feed her children. Her 17-month-old daughter Nicoles is currently being treated for severe malnourishment at a Concern-supported health clinic. She said:

My child doesn’t get enough food to eat. She’s not healthy. We don’t eat well. I have to go farming and bring back what I can for us to eat. We only have the basics – cassava leaves and okra, we don’t have oil or peanut paste. Sometimes we eat twice a day, sometimes only once. There are times when I go to bed hungry – and sometimes I do without so that I can feed my children.

Alpha

Rufin

Pictured is a health register and notebook, stethoscope, CAR flag, photo of Selefio Stanislas, an official health facility stamp with ink, and pens. Photo: Chris de Bode
Rufin has been a nutritional health officer since 2015. Pictured are some of his belongings.
Rufin has been nutritional health officer since August 2015, when Concern first started to support the facility. The clinic serves around 6,000 people, including just over one-thousand children under the age of five. Photographer: Chris de Bode
Rufin has been nutritional health officer at this Concern-supported facility since 2015.

Shown above: Health register and notebook, stethoscope, CAR flag, photo of Selefio Stanislas, an official health facility stamp with ink and pens.

Rufin, who is 29 years old, has been a nutritional health officer at Gbandengue clinic since August 2015, when Concern first started to support the facility. The clinic serves around 6,000 people, including just over one thousand children under the age of five. There is also a mobile health clinic for more remote communities.

In February 2019, the director of the clinic, 46-year-old Stanislas Selefio (seen in the photograph in the image), died suddenly. But his legacy lives on – with Rufin, pharmacist Marcelin Pezele and matron Micheline Kolengue continuing to provide care and treatment for the community. Rufin said:

I feel sad because we shared the same office, and now his chair is empty. But that doesn’t stop me doing the work. It would have been his wish for us to continue.

Rufin

Natalie

Natalie and her husband received seeds, tools and training in farming skills from Concern to help with their recovery after they fled their village during conflict. Pictured are some of these tools. Photo: Chris de Bode
Natalie and her husband received seeds, tools and training in farming skills from Concern.
Natalie Wato with her children. Together with her husband Beni, they have received seeds, tools and farming skills from Concern to help with their recovery after fleeing their village during the crisis. Photographer: Chris de Bode
Natalie Wato with her children. They have received seeds, tools and farming skills from Concern.

Shown above: Machete, radio, chicken foot talisman, a box of matches, squash leaves, groundnuts and syringe (used to administer infant oral medication).

Mum-of-seven Natalie (33) and her husband Beni (39), received seeds, tools and training in farming skills from Concern to help with their recovery after they fled their village during conflict.

From the seeds given to them, they have harvested groundnuts and squash leaves (like those pictured above) beans and sesame on the small plot of land they tend near their home. She said:

I was also given two machetes and a hoe as part of the programme. It has made a big difference. Things have changed. The seeds have grown, and we sold part of the harvest and kept the rest for the family. I’m hopeful for the future.

Natalie

Nadine

Nadine is a Concern-supported Mama Lumiere – or ‘lead mother’ in her community. Pictured are some of her belongings. Photo: Chris de Bode
Nadine is a Concern-supported ‘lead mother’ in her community. Pictured are some of her belongings.
Nadine Doko and Hermine Kounougoue are friends and neighbours. Hermine and her four children have learned a lot about food preparation and hygiene from Nadine, who's a Concern-supported Mama Lumiere - or ‘lead mother’. "I have learned a lot from her," said Hermine. "Much has changed in my life. I think that all my children are healthy because of the advice I’ve received from her." Photographer: Chris de Bode
Hermine has learned a lot from Nadine, who's a Concern-supported ‘lead mother’.

Shown above: Cob of corn, groundnuts, handmade bracelets, thinly sliced squash leaves, plantain and talisman.

Nadine is a Concern-supported Mama Lumiere – or ‘lead mother’ in her community. She has lived in the village all her life and is highly respected.

Nadine encourages mothers to take their children to the nearby health facility at the first sign of malnutrition or sickness and passes on her skills and knowledge to other women to help them improve infant and child feeding practices and hygiene in the home.

She cultivates her own plot of land to grow food for her family and also gives cooking demonstrations, using ingredients like squash leaves and groundnuts, so other mothers can learn how to prepare nutritious meals for their families.

I support around 15 other women and their families. They all like learning. I’ve taught them how to take care of their children – before and after birth – and about good hygiene.

Nadine

Want to see even more? Follow Chris on Instagram.

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