A fight for life
Hassan and his twin sister Mariam are over a year old now. Hassan has already taken his first steps and Mariam is just about to. Didi Séley's twins suffered from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in 2019 when they were four months old. After receiving nutritional care, they recovered and are now in good health. In the Central African Republic (CAR), 1 in 10 children do not survive to their fifth birthday due to a combination of factors, including malnutrition, for which more than 1 million children will need preventive and curative assistance in 2021.
Didi Séley, Hassan and Mariam's mother, fled the town of Bambari in central CAR in 2018 because of armed conflict. Abandoned by her husband, she found herself alone a year later with her newborns at an informal site for displaced people in Zémio in the south-east of the country. "Arriving at the site, I didn't know how to feed my children,” she says. Séley was not getting enough food, and as a result, she could not adequately breastfeed her two children.
A spark of hope
In June 2019, during an assessment of the needs of displaced people in Zémio, the Humanitarian Coordinator and OCHA met Didi Séley who was begging in despair at the IDP site with her twins who presented signs of advanced malnutrition, such as emaciated bodies and bloated bellies. Alerted by the children's nutritional situation, the humanitarian team initiated emergency treatment for the twins who were already in SAM. Humanitarian workers continued to monitor children's development and provided nutritional and medical care. “I had lost all hope for the survival of my children. If they are alive today, it’s thanks to the support of humanitarians,” said the visibly relieved young mother.
Didi Séley benefited from multisectoral support provided by humanitarian actors in Zémio. Her children were followed every week and received nutritional inputs. She also received food from the World Food Program, as well as becoming a member of the women's group "Aimons-nous", supported by the NGO Association of Women for Promotion and Entrepreneurship (AFPE), with funding from the Humanitarian Fund for CAR. An Income Generating Activity Kit (IGA) assistance enabled her to start a small business and raise chickens, which allows her to earn money to support her twins. "Once I have saved enough money, I plan to exit the site, rent a house and move in with my children," said Didi Seley. In this group, the beneficiaries have set up a tontine system which allows them to grant themselves revolving credits in order to strengthen their business assets. "We come to the aid of tried women, those who are sick, victims of domestic violence, or destitute", said Jacqueline Mbolini, who is president of the group.
Didi and her twins among thousands
In 2019, Zémio was in phase 5, the most acute for humanitarian needs. With a population of more than 35,000 inhabitants, the city has welcomed, since 2017, more than 15,000 displaced people from the Ouaka prefecture and the various Zémio roads. Following large-scale humanitarian interventions, the level of severity of needs has dropped from 5 to 4 in one year. 75 percent of people in need receive the necessary assistance: food consumption has increased from 34 to 58 percent, access to hygienic toilets from 43 to 71 percent, school attendance from 43 to 87 percent.