The Central African Republic is a nation with a long history of political turmoil and humanitarian crises. It is also consistently named among the poorest nations in the world and has some of the worst global health indicators. The country has the sixth highest infant mortality rate and the third-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. As recently as 2013, a major crisis displaced over 25% of the population and almost collapsed the nation’s already precarious health system. Although it seems as if the CAR is finally able to stabilize its political situation—for the first time in its history, the nation has a democratically-elected president and parliament—endemic poverty and poor health infrastructure coupled with a tropical climate makes the prevalence of disease a major problem. Here are four of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic:
- Malaria: The mosquito-spread disease is endemic to the Central African Republic. Malaria infects a large portion of the population at least once a year. It accounts for 40% of all medical consultations and is the leading cause of death amongst children. Malaria is the primary public health issue and one of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic. Many international organizations, in partnership with the government, have attempted to carry out projects such as free treatment for children under five and mosquito netting distributions to curb the effect of the disease in the nation.
- HIV/AIDS: The CAR has one of the highest rates of HIV in Central and Western Africa. The rate is at 4.9% and is one of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic. People in urban areas, especially women, are at the highest risk of contracting the disease. Due to constant conflict and political turmoil, treatment is often hard to find. Organizations such as the UNHCR help diagnose and provide treatment, but they often suffer in conflict situations. In the 2013 crisis, looters descended on several facilities.
- Cholera: In 2016, the medical community panicked at reports of a cholera outbreak in the Central African Republic. Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. After the latest humanitarian crisis in 2013, thousands of people were displaced and access to clean water became very limited. This led to a breeding ground for cholera and its ensuing spread throughout the country. UNICEF and other organizations quickly mobilized to contain the outbreak.
- Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious bacterial disease that affects the lungs and spreads easily in crowded spaces. Over the past decades, TB has been on the rise in the Central African Republic. The forced displacement of large swathes of the population due to constant ongoing crises often disrupts treatment and prevention operations. Tuberculosis is also a leading killer of HIV-positive people. In 2012, there were 8,084 reported cases of TB—a 44% increase from the year before.
The tropical climate of the Central African Republic means it is already a hotspot for contagious and infectious diseases; a precarious health system coupled with endemic poverty makes matters even worse. Although many international organizations have made a concerted effort to address these issues, the constant political conflict and instability make it extremely hard for them to properly do their job. The international community should help the CAR by not only providing medical aid and supplies but also helping it build a stable government that will properly handle these issues.
– Alan Garcia-Ramos