High malnutrition rates, a silent emergency in DRC
Kinshasa, DR Congo, 6 April 2010 - Nutrition surveys carried out by the Congolese government, with the support of UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), have found unusually high levels of malnutrition in children living in five provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The surveys, carried out in the provinces of Kasaï Occidental, Kasaï Oriental and Equateur (West), Maniema (East), and Katanga (South east) by the National Nutrition Programme (PRONANUT), reveal alarming acute malnutrition rates among children under five and women.
Experts believe the basic structural causes of malnutrition have been aggravated by conflict, high food prices and the global financial crisis which has shaken the mining industry in the west and south-east of the country.
Some 530,000 children under five and more than one million pregnant women need urgent nutrition interventions, according to the Congolese Ministry of Health.
In several areas surveyed, global acute malnutrition rates are above the 10 percent threshold for intervention and also in some cases above the emergency threshold of 15 percent.
The survey was carried out last year, led by PRONANUT with support from the UNICEF and the WFP.
More than 90 rural territories and urban communes, representing nearly half of the DRC population have been reviewed. Data on women and children’s nutrition, as well as on food consumption and mortality rates, were gathered in the survey.
Out of 90 territories surveyed, 52 reveal global acute malnutrition rates above 10 percent, and eight of them have results above 15 percent.
The Kasaï Oriental province is the most affected in both urban and rural areas, with three communes out of five having rates above 10 percent.
The causes behind such high malnutrition rates are numerous and may vary from one territory to another. However, the main causes are weak access -or lack of access- to healthcare and to drinkable water, poor access of household to good quality food, non optimal feeding practices of infants, young children and women as well as a lack of tools and seeds for agriculture.
In the eastern Kivu provinces, malnutrition rates have decreased thanks to humanitarian interventions in partnership with communities, donors and aid agencies.
The Government of DRC is committed to fight this silent emergency but will only be able to do so with the support from its partners
Fighting malnutrition requires interventions such as rapid alert systems for malnutrition cases, counseling for families with malnourished children and agricultural assistance in the short term.
In the longer term, malnutrition treatment procedures should be integrated into all existing health structures, with prevention activities at a community level.
Other actions to prioritize are ensuring vitamin A supplementation and de-worming, food fortification, reinforcing interventions in the agricultural sector and water/sanitation, and increasing access to healthcare.
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