DR Congo

DRC: Tens of thousands of children face death by starvation

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New York, February 14 - Despite recent efforts by the international community to implement the Lusaka peace accords, a large number of the Democratic Republic of Congo population still faces displacement (an estimated 1.1 million people have been displaced by war within the DRC and across its frontiers), severe economic depression, poor access to health care and disruption of food security. Access to the most vulnerable in conflict zones remains extremely limited, hampering the delivery of aid. Recent nutritional and food security surveys carried out by Action Against Hunger reveal tens of thousands of children in need of food and the direct impact of a worsening economic situation on the food security and the nutritional status of the population.
The city of Kinshasa, with an estimated population of 6 million people, has medical and sanitation facilities that were foreseen for less than 1 million inhabitants. Anarchic development coupled with massive exodus make sanitation conditions extremely precarious. Kinshasa is characterized, on one hand, by the older central communes which have a high population density and, on the other, the more recently urbanized, outlying communes which maintain rural characteristics. Recent nutritional surveys carried out in different Kinshasa communes by Action Against Hunger show an alarming situation. The most vulnerable zones seem to be on the periphery of Kinshasa in terms of malnutrition and food security. Thousands of market gardeners do not have tools, seeds and fertilizer to properly cultivate their land.

If we look at global malnutrition (moderate, acute and severe malnutrition) for the 4 of the 22 communes of Kinshasa surveyed by Action Against Hunger (Selembao: 7.9%, Kimbaseke: 8.7%, Kingabwa: 4.7%, Kinshasa: 3.5%) as many as 13,600 children (6-59 months) could be malnourished. The number of severely malnourished children could be over 3,000 in Kimbanseke (2.9% severe malnutrition) and over 1,000 in Selembao (2.7% severe malnutrition). In addition, in Selembao the mortality rate is 2.3/10,000/day for children aged 6 to 59 months (alert level is of 2/10,000/day). In peripheral communes, the rate of severe malnutrition among mothers is higher than in the urbanized communes: 2.6% in Selembao and 4.3% in Kinshasa compared to 0.9% in Kingabwa and 1.9% in Kinshasa.

In the Eastern city of Lubumbashi (population 1 million people), the situation is worsening day by day with the massive arrival of rural populations displaced by insecurity in the war-affected zones of the republic. Approximately 20,000 displaced people live in camps or are hosted in families. A recent survey carried out by Action Against Hunger shows that over 5,000 children could be malnourished. The organization has recently opened 4 feeding centers.

In South Kivu, where Action Against Hunger started its programs in 1997, as many as 190,000 people have been displaced by the war. Since 1996 people have been unable to cultivate their fields during the planting season. Action Against Hunger supports 3 therapeutic feeding centers (with an average of 100 severely malnourished children treated each month) and 5 supplementary feeding centers (with 1,600 moderately malnourished patients). Seeds and tools have been distributed to 8,000 families in the region of Uvira, South Kivu. Action Against Hunger is presently planning a distribution of seeds and tools for 28,000 families.

For more information contact:
Virginia de la Guardia
Tel: 1-212-967-7800
Fax: 1-212-967-5480
email: virginia@aah-usa.org

Note to editors: Nutritional and food security surveys are available upon request.