DR Congo

“There was not a lot to harvest and eat. The population have nothing.”

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KASAI – Even if peace has returned in the many territories of the Kasai region, the consequences of the crisis on children is still felt today. Crispin is a nurse at the nutritional center of the Tshikaji health zone has suffered a lot from the violence.

Months without access to basic services
Crispin himself had to hide in a small room in his center when fierce fighting raged a couple meters from his center. When later, the center was occupied, he had to flee during three weeks. Today, peace has returned but “the population here continues to suffer“.

Before the violence, Crispin treated on average between 10 and 15 children suffering of acute malnutrition. “Today, I have to take care of on average 40 children” stressed Crispin. “The population had to hide for several months in the brush, without access to health care, drinking water and sanitation. There was hardly any food. When they left the brush, a lot of young children were severely undernourished.”

Little hope for the short term
Dr. Bruno Kapinga, chief doctor of the Tshikaji health zone, estimates that the situation risks to not improve in the short term. “People were not able to crop their fields last year. There was thus not a lot to harvest and eat. The population does not have anything that they can sell on the local market. They are missing money to pay for the health care of their children.”

Many territories in the Kasaï region are today level 4 in terms of food security, the second level the most dangerous. The consequences will be felt at least until June 2018. Maybe longer, because there is still a lot of people who still do not dare to return to their farm, out of fear of being confronted again by violence. It is a dangerous situation that risks increasing the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Objective : save children’s’ lives
Crispin is not discouraged. He is there to save children’s’ lives. “Each morning, I start by weighing and measuring the children who come to the center. Each child who gains weight, makes me happy. With therapeutic peanut paste enriched with minerals and vitamins that UNICEF puts at our disposal, I treat children. With this therapeutic food, a child can be saved from dying in a few days.”

In a corner of the center, Crispin created a kitchen area where he gives mothers practical advice for a healthy and balanced diet for their children, with the little food that they have at their disposition.

Monique is one of the mothers who helps Crispin. She came to the nutrition center three weeks ago with her daughter Tshitala, one and a half years old. This was not without consequences for the young Tshitala : she became severely malnourished and developed edema on all her body. Today Tshitala is better but “her mother must make sure to give Tshitala a good diet so that she does not fall back into malnutrition” explained Crispin.

Combating severe acute malnutrition in Kasai
Before the Kasaï crisis, four health zones in the Central Kasaï Province and the neighboring Kasaï Province were in a nutritional state of alert, with more than 2% of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Today, this number has risen to fifteen health zones. UNICEF estimates that 700,000 children are affected by acute malnutrition in all of Kasaï region. 350,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Without assistance, these children risk dying.

UNICEF and its partners currently only have 15% of the necessary funds to take care of the children suffering from severe acute malnutrition at Tshikaji and in the rest of the Kasaï region. There is still then an urgent need of more funds to avoid that thousands of children in the Kasaï region die of the consequences of malnutrition.