A common commitment to the reduction of chronic malnutrition in the DRC
KINSHASA, 30 October 2017 - The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on 30th October 2017 in Kinshasa, launched the Common Narrative for combating malnutrition, undertook a commitment and a high-level multi-sectoral coordination in support of combating chronic malnutrition in the DRC.
Malnutrition is the leading underlying cause of child mortality in the DRC. Every year 160,000 children in the DRC die of causes related to malnutrition. Contrary to acute malnutrition, which manifests itself as severe wasting or nutritional oedema, chronic malnutrition takes its toll over a longer period by delaying the child’s physical and intellectual growth. An inadequate and insufficient diet can lead to chronic malnutrition and be detected by means of the size-to-age ratio.
Chronic malnutrition is poorly understood and has a direct impact on children’s well-being, growth, cognitive development and education. Chronic malnutrition is also an obstacle to a country’s economy because it leads to significant productivity losses. “There is an urgent need to strengthen, integrate and coordinate policies for combating chronic malnutrition. Together with our partners, we must develop new strategies in order to significantly reduce the number of children suffering from stunted growth in the DRC,” said Health Minister Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga.
Since 2013, the DRC has subscribed to the movement, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), which aims to reverse the trend of chronic malnutrition. Several interventions have been carried out by the government of the DRC in conjunction with several partners, including UNICEF and the World Bank. These include the creation of an institutional framework, necessary for multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral action, through the decree of the Office of the Prime Minister no. 05/042 of 15 December 2015 on the creation, organisation and functioning of the National Multi-sectoral Nutrition Committee.
Also included is the promotion of nutritional interventions of choice, especially breastfeeding, feeding of supplements from 6 months of age and improved hygiene and sanitation practices which should, as a matter of priority, take place during the first 1,000 days of life, namely from pregnancy to the child’s second birthday. These nutritional interventions will need to be supplemented by contributions from the areas of nutrition-sensitive agriculture, social protection, early child development, education and the advancement of women, and water and sanitation.
In order to scale up these specific nutrition interventions in a gradual way, existing approaches at various levels are to be optimized and revitalized, namely: Pre-school Consultations in health centers, Community-based Nutrition programme in the communities, Child Health Days as a mass activity, units for the management of acute malnutrition in health centres and hospitals, and consultations with women (prenatal and postnatal) and in schools (kindergartens).
Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale, acting UNICEF Representative in the DRC stresses: “Combating malnutrition requires a multi-sectoral approach. The scaling up of interventions proven to be effective and inexpensive is very important. Community-based nutrition, an approach for implementing high impact nutrition interventions at a community level, is delivering excellent results and needs to be extended to all communities in the DRC.”
It is in this context that the Common Narrative on combating malnutrition has been created under the leadership of the Ministry of Public Health with a view to creating a synergy of actions among all the stakeholders and sectors involved in the field of nutrition. It is important to take action by preventing cases of chronic malnutrition among women, infants and young women as a priority in order to reduce child mortality, improve child health and ensure the individual, social and economic development of the country. “Chronic malnutrition brings about irreversible losses of human capital that contribute to the reduction of economic productivity. Children who are malnourished during early infancy present cognitive deficiencies and poorer educational outcomes. In the longer term, delayed growth leads to a loss of 10 to 17 percent in wages earned over a working life. This leads to significant economic losses in the order of 3 to 8 percent of gross domestic product,” said Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye, World Bank Director of Operations in the DRC.
In order to bring about a general and sustainable reduction in malnutrition rates among children under five years of age, more resources need to be mobilized, nutrition leadership needs to be strengthened, the coordination mechanism needs to be activated at a high level to include all key sectors, but also, nutrition needs to be integrated into all the various development plans in the country (agricultural development plan, food security and in education).
The DRC government and its partners are working side by side to make simple interventions, adapted to the local diet and proven to have a greater impact in combating malnutrition, accessible to as many Congolese children as possible.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.