Central African Republic's children are world's most deprived, UNICEF says

A UNICEF logo is pictured outside their offices in Geneva

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Central African Republic's three million children are the world's most deprived, with widespread malnutrition, inadequate healthcare access and instability putting the country at high risk of a humanitarian crisis, UNICEF said on Tuesday.

Half of the country's children do not have access to health services, and almost 40% suffer from chronic malnutrition, the U.N. children's agency said. Few have access to clean water, sanitation or healthy diets.

With global attention focused on the war in Gaza and other conflicts, the plight of the African nation's children has become "painfully invisible", Meritxell Relano Arana, UNICEF representative in the Central African Republic (CAR), told reporters in Geneva.

"The three million girls and boys of the Central Africa Republic face the highest registered level of overlapping and interconnected crises and deprivation in the world," she said.

That means CAR is now ranked as the country most at-risk for sliding into humanitarian crisis, she added.

Violence in the CAR, one of the world's poorest countries, waned after a peace accord in February 2019 between the government and 14 armed groups, but the situation remains volatile as swathes of territory remain outside government control.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Helen Popper)