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In the Central African Republic, the number of people who need humanitarian aid is rising constantly and will reach 3.4 million people in 2023: more than half of the country’s population.
Due to inflation, violence committed by armed forces and groups, epidemics and a lack of basic infrastructures and services, the population’s living conditions are getting worse and worse. For four years, Action contre la Faim implemented ‘Confluences’, a development project that relies on local organisations and initiatives to improve nutrition and food security for many families.
Bossangoa is the administrative centre of the prefecture of Ouham. In this region in the north-west of the country, almost four in ten people do not have access to enough drinking water. In 2021, it was the region with the most cases of diarrhoea in children under 5. This situation has led to severe acute malnutrition rates that exceed emergency levels.
It is a fertile area that is ideal for agriculture, but since 2003, the city of Bossangoa and its suburbs have seen repeated episodes of violence and population displacement. ‘Before, Bossangoa was the breadbasket of the CAR, but because of a series of crises, things have regressed. People have lost everything and fled to the sticks. People want to go back to their old lives. We have producers [and] women who have the enthusiasm but not the resources necessary to make progress’, explains Paulin Giraud, head of the food security part of the Confluences project.
To help farmers, Action contre la Faim supports the local agricultural and rural training centre (CFAR, by its initials in French), which informs them about agroecology and market gardening. Our teams have provided the centre with farming tools and seeds, set up experimentation fields, and trained local advisers, who can now train farmers. Juvénal is the director of this centre, which has been around since the 1980s. ‘The centre was ransacked following the crises that took place in our country. From 2002 to 2020, this centre was inactive because it had been wrecked. We officially relaunched our activities in 2020, thanks to the support of certain partners’.
Particular emphasis is placed on training for women, who are also assisted by our teams and learn new ways to transform and make the most of their vegetables and how to manage their profits. Some have got together to form village savings and loan associations, which enables them to save more money than if they were alone and helps them to invest in activities or projects.
Many of these women were widowed following violence in the region and are now the only breadwinner for their family: ‘It is women who are selling food on the street: fritters, peanuts… It is women who are leading the “income-generating activities”. So the best thing to do is to support them, so that they can feed their families’, Paulin Giraud concludes.
Philippe Modompte was¹ general secretary of CAPICO, the Ouham Beekeepers’ Cooperative: an organisation he stood by through thick and thin. In his eyes, the best honey in the Central African Republic was found in Bossangoa: ‘Yes, the honey is better in Bossangoa than elsewhere because we have a lot of tasty honey plants, which produce quality nectar. Our many fruit trees – orange trees, papaya trees, grapefruit trees, banana trees – flower alongside wildflowers, both of which are essential for bees’.
Action contre la Faim provided equipment for this cooperative and training in more efficient and bee-friendly apicultural techniques than those used previously. This way, they can produce and sell significant amounts of honey as far away as Bangui.
In total, thanks to our support for beekeepers and market gardeners, 93 women, 43 young people aged 24–34 years and 9 men were trained; 25 individual microprojects were launched after the training; and 40 village savings and loan associations were set up.
Finally, the Confluences project has trained lecturers at the medicine faculty and in nursing schools in the best ways to care for children under five with severe acute malnutrition, so that they can receive the optimal treatment at Bangui Paediatric Centre and everywhere else in the country.
The consequences of malnutrition include stunted growth and delays in motor and psychomotor development. The Confluences project ensures that medical treatment is complemented by psychological and psychomotor support: children suffering from developmental delays are fed, cared for and stimulated intellectually and physically throughout their hospital stay. Our teams’ work for children is not limited to medical treatment. Some children are referred to CRHAM, the Rehabilitation Centre for People with Motor Disabilities in Bangui.
Marlyse is Emmanuel’s mother. Her husband died when she was pregnant. Not long after he was born, she noticed that her son was showing symptoms of malaria, and that he was struggling to learn to walk. She visited various hospitals and was told to contact Action contre la Faim. Emmanuel received care from our teams at Bangui Paediatric Centre, who then referred him to CRHAM. ‘The treatments here have really improved his health. Now, he makes an effort to stand and walk. My hope is for Action contre la Faim to continue to support me until, with God’s help, my child is able to walk’.
We cover the fees for the referred children’s rehabilitation sessions, as well as transport costs for those accompanying them, like Marlyse. Our teams monitor the children’s progress by attending certain sessions. This way, the CRHAM staff can benefit from Action contre la Faim’s expertise in mental health, care practices and nutrition, and Action contre la Faim’s staff can develop their knowledge of psychostimulation.
The first phase of the Confluences project was funded by the French Development Agency. It provided tangible assistance to populations in areas including nutrition, health, water and food security and launched advocacy and communication campaigns, so that governments would pay more attention to the fight against hunger when drawing up and funding public policies. To this end, Action contre la Faim and all of its implementation partners formed alliances to bear witness to the reality on the ground and put forward specific proposals in national and international forums. The project took place in five Francophone African countries: Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Madagascar.
¹We would like to extend our deepest condolences to Philippe’s friends and family, following his death in December 2022.
Central African Republic
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