A United Nations-supported survey has revealed alarming acute malnutrition rates among some 530,000 children under five and more than one million pregnant women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The Government survey was conducted last year in five provinces – Kasaï Occidental, Kasaï Oriental and Equateur (west), Maniema (east), and Katanga (south-east) – with the support of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
In several areas surveyed, global acute malnutrition rates are above the 10 per cent threshold for intervention and also in some cases above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent, according to a news release issued by WFP.
The agency noted that while the causes behind such high malnutrition rates are many and vary across territories, the main ones are weak access – or lack of access – to healthcare and to drinkable water, poor access of households to good quality food, poor feeding practices of infants, young children and women, as well as a lack of tools and seeds for agriculture.
These conditions have been exacerbated by conflict, high food prices and the global financial crisis which has shaken the mining industry in the west and south-east of the vast African nation.
Fifty-two out of the 90 territories surveyed revealed global acute malnutrition rates above 10 per cent, and eight of them have results above 15 per cent.
The Kasaï Oriental province is the most affected in both urban and rural areas, with three communes out of five having rates above 10 per cent.
Meanwhile, humanitarian interventions in partnership with communities, donors and aid agencies have helped to lower malnutrition rates in the eastern Kivu provinces.
To help fight malnutrition, WFP advocates rapid alert systems for malnutrition cases, counselling for families with malnourished children and agricultural assistance in the short term. The agency also calls for ensuring vitamin A supplementation and de-worming, food fortification, reinforcing interventions in the agricultural sector and water/sanitation, and increasing access to healthcare.
While the DRC Government is committed to fighting this “silent emergency,” it will only be able to do so with support from its partners, the agency added.