How UK aid will help us combat child malnutrition in the world’s hungriest country

Three of Natalie Wato's children - Davilla, Patricia and Gaus with their friends from the village of Gbatin. Photographer: Darren Vaughan
Three of Natalie Wato's children with their friends, CAR. Photographer: Darren Vaughan

Next year Concern will launch a new programme that will transform the lives of those living in the world’s hungriest country, the Central African Republic (CAR). Our ultimate objective is to reduce the number of deaths of pregnant women and children under five. But exactly how do we go about achieving this? And what part is the UK government playing?

Why is this programme necessary?

The Central African Republic (CAR) is officially the world’s hungriest country. Since 2012, conflict has affected over half the population and over a million people have been forced from their homes. Livelihoods have been destroyed and access to food severely limited. 60 percent of the population is undernourished and nearly half of all children in CAR are stunted.

The crisis has considerably weakened CAR’s healthcare system and many health facilities have been destroyed or are no longer functional due to security risks or lack of medication and equipment. This means that essential life-saving emergency food and medicine for malnourished children can be very hard to come by. 

The pharmacy at Pama Health Facility is almost empty. The only medication that remains - a full box of tablets for treating malaria (Artemether 20mg) - is out of date. Photo: Chris de Bode / CAR
The pharmacy at Pama Health Facility is almost empty. The clinic is not supported by Concern.
Augustine with her three-month-old son Passi. Photo: Chris de Bode
Augustine with her three-month-old son Passi. Photo: Chris de Bode

Augustine brought her malnourished three-month-old son, Passi, to the Pama Clinic. She had walked for several hours to reach the clinic, only to find that their supply of life-saving therapeutic food had run out long ago.

So how will our programme help change this?

We will be working in two areas of the Central African Republic, Bossembélé and Yaloke. The health services in these areas are severely understaffed, with only three trained doctors, 16 qualified nurses and three trained midwives for almost 105,661 people.

Of the 22 health facilities in the area, only 12 are fully functional due to support from charities and non-governmental organisations, who provide 75% of health services in the country. The remaining 10 are often out of stock of essential medicines, or the special therapeutic food used to treat malnourished children, and do not have the necessary staff or equipment.

We will be:

  • Training staff
  • Providing medicines
  • Improving the infrastructure of health centres. This may include repairing damage, restoring delivery rooms and water points and providing proper spaces for consulting and treatment that allow patients privacy
  • Treating malnutrition


We will also spread health and hygiene messages throughout communities by working with community volunteers, as well as traditional birth assistants and traditional healers. Traditional birth assistants and healers are still widely used in communities than qualified health professionals, particularly when access to health centres and medicine is limited. However, sadly this can often mean that people don’t get the healthcare they need.

Matron and immunisation coordinator Emielliene  with six-month-old Rosalia. Photo: Chris de Bode
Matron and immunisation coordinator Emielliene with six-month-old Rosalia. Photo: Chris de Bode

Working with traditional birth assistants and healers in this way is a new approach. The aim is to train them in identifying critical signs of malnutrition and childhood illness, as well as on the reasons why all pregnant women should be referred to health facilities for antenatal care with a skilled health provider, thus reducing the number of malnutrition cases in the community.

These activities will:

  • combat malnutrition in children under five;
  • improve access to antenatal care;
  • scale up the usage of skilled birth attendants for pregnant women;
  • increase access to prevention, care and treatment of childhood diseases for under-fives;
  • and boost levels of breastfeeding.


Overall, this will reduce the number of deaths of children under five and pregnant women in the Central African Republic.

Approximately 12,500 will directly benefit from this project.

Where does UK aid come into this?

The money raised from our Free From Hunger Appeal will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government. This programme will be supported entirely by this matched funding. Without the support of UK aid, and those of you who donated to our Free From Hunger appeal, projects like this – projects that truly save lives – would not exist.

Development is working. Together, we are creating positive sustainable change. We must work together to keep the momentum going.

Free From Hunger

  • Help malnourished children survive and grow up with the strength they need to be free from hunger.

  • £40 could provide medicine and six weeks worth of therapeutic food for a malnourished child.

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