400,000 children at risks of severe acute malnutrition in the Democratic Republic of Congo

UNICEF

Forced child recruitment is on the increase across the east of the country. Annie (name has been changed) questions if her children will be next.

The crisis in Greater Kasai in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has severely disrupted life-saving interventions for children in recent months, putting an estimated 400,000 children at risks of severe acute malnutrition, said UNICEF.

In this photo taken on Sunday, June 19, 2016, six-year-old Alpha Meleki plays in the yard at the En Avant Les Enfants INUKA center in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Melee survived an attack from ADF rebels on his village that left over 20 dead including his parents in Beni in January 2016. Rescuers found Meleki in a pile of bodies with a bullet wound to his belly. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (The Associated Press)

Across the five provinces of Greater Kasai, critical health infrastructures are no longer operational due to the conflict. In Central Kasai Province alone, more than one-third of health centers have been forced to close following looting, due to security concerns for staff or lack of medical supplies, depriving children of vital services and medicine.

“These children are among the most vulnerable in the country, and now they face a looming crisis if access to basic services is not restored quickly,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Without adequate health care, without access to food and clean water, the lives of hundreds of thousands of children are at risk.”

The nutrition situation of children is of particular concern because insecurity has made farming difficult for the local population. Eight health zones in Greater Kasai have been put on nutritional alert since the intensification of the conflict in August 2016. Supplies of food and basic necessities are dwindling, and displacement has forced families to live in conditions with inadequate hygiene or sanitation.

Even before the latest wave of violence, the Kasai Provinces were among the poorest in the country. More than one in ten children die before the age of five due to lack of adequate health care. Half the children suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting. In recent months, widespread conflict across the region has exacerbated the situation.

“Our priority over the next few weeks is to reach thousands of severely malnourished children that can no longer be cared for in the health centers that have been destroyed,” said Tajudeen Oyewale, acting UNICEF Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “But insecurity in these remote areas is making our work very challenging.”

UNICEF has stepped up its humanitarian response across the five Kasai provinces, providing therapeutic food to thousands of children in nutritional centres and training hundreds of community workers so they are able to screen children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

UNICEF needs US $40.2 million for its emergency response in Greater Kasai.

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