Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chronic malnutrition harms Côte d’Ivoire’s north

IRIN: Forty percent of Ivoirian children in the northern region are chronically malnourished, the country’s highest rate, which has not fallen for the past six years. The effects of a drawn-out conflict, desertion by aid groups and inadequate medical staff have contributed to the situation. Food scarcity here is often due to harsh weather and high food costs.

The average rate of chronic malnutrition nationally is not much lower though, at 30 percent. Côte d’Ivoire’s northern region is mostly arid and on the fringes of the Sahel. Malnutrition levels here compare to Niger’s 40 percent and are slightly higher than Burkina Faso’s 34 percent.

The 2002-2009 political turmoil that split Côte d’Ivoire into rebel-held north and government-controlled south devastated public services in the in the north. Under rebel rule, private firms also fled, while the economy tumbled and insecurity rose. The region was, however, spared much of the violence sparked by the 2010 election dispute.

“The crisis significantly weakened the already precarious food security levels in this part of the country. Population displacements disrupted agricultural activities from 2002 to 2005,” said Bernard Kouamé, a nutrition expert based in the commercial capital Abidjan.

“Health infrastructure was degraded. The absence of health personnel for months on end and the fracturing of the health system greatly affected access to health services. The country has not totally recovered from these problems,” he said....

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