DRC: Japan grants US $ 3 million to mitigate the food crisis and malnutrition on vulnerable children
Kinshasa, 18 March 2009- The government of Japan this week issued a new grant of US$ 3 million dollars to UNICEF in the Democratic Republic of Congo to mitigate the impact of the food crisis among vulnerable children. The funds are earmarked for assistance to children and schools in the Provinces of Equateur and Bandundu, and will serve to promote the health, nutritional and environmental status among 16,500 vulnerable children living and studying in remote rural villages.
This contribution is part of a US$ 40 million grant allocated by the Government of Japan to 19 African countries to mitigate the impact of the food crisis due to price increases and climate change.
The Government of Japan grant will enhance the coverage of UNICEF DRC’s programmes for rural water, sanitation, and hygiene development in schools and complement the community-based health and environmental initiatives that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Professional Education are jointly leading to promote “Healthy Schools and Healthy Villages” nationwide.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is heavily reliant on the production of raw materials, causing deforestation and climate change, which contribute to recurrent and prolonged drought in some parts of the country and continuous flooding and soil erosion in others. The lack of access to adequate quantities of clean water, food insecurity, poor hygienic practices, and lack of safe and hygienic sanitation facilities are among the underlying causes of the high levels of malnutrition among young children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Provinces of Equateur and Bandundu have the lowest coverage of safe drinking water supply nationwide: out of 10 children, less than 3 drink safe water. In these two provinces, about half of the children below the age of 5 years suffer from chronic malnutrition. This greatly inhibits the growth rate of the children at this crucial stage of early childhood development, when they should be preparing for entry into primary schools. In addition, children’s attendance and performance at school depend on their health and nutritional well-being.
“Japan has a longstanding partnership with UNICEF in the DRC. This grant will further support the country’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in rural areas “ observed Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative in DRC.
The Japanese funds will be used to promote good health and environmental protection by providing child friendly –and especially “girl friendly”- water and sanitation facilities, life skills-based health, nutrition and environmental education, involving students in a self-assessment of their environment affected by climate change and in self help actions to remedy these impacts. The teachers from participating schools will be trained in the use of Health and Environmental education manuals and techniques to implement a life skills approach which balances knowledge, values and skills acquisition with educational activities. This approach takes socio-economic, gender, and lifestyle differences into account, helping children to opt for healthy behaviour in an autonomous and individual way.
Since 2007,UNICEF has supported 827 villages and 252 schools in their efforts to improve their water, sanitation and hygiene conditions. By the end of 2009, it is anticipated that at least half will attain the « Healthy Village » and « Healthy School » status.
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