Date Published: 25 May 2017

UNICEF reports increased risks to vulnerable children across the 5 provinces of the Greater Kasai, DRC

An estimated 400,000 children in the Greater Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are thought to be at risk of severe acute malnutrition due to on-going armed conflict in the area.

According to the international aid organization UNICEF, the crisis in the Greater Kasai region has severely disrupted life-saving interventions for children for several months. In a statement it explained that the conflict has resulted in health infrastructures across all five provinces of the Greater Kasai no longer being operational. 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. This has deprived local 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 nutritional effects on the children is a matter of particular concern because the local insecurity has also made farming more difficult. 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 while the situation persists. Displacement has also 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 Democratic Republic of Congo. In this area more than 10% of children die before the age of five due to lack of adequate health care and half of all children are thought to be affected by 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 reports that it has increased 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. It has stated that it needs US $40.2 million for its emergency response in Greater Kasai.

The conflict in the region, which has been referred to as the Kamwina Nsapu rebellion, has increased since August 2016. It has been reported that some groups are using child soldiers many of whom are only 14 years old, with some as young as 5 years 2,3. In Feb 2017 Pope Francis prayed for the victims of violence in DR Congo and called for an end to the violence, especially the use of child soldiers 4.

References:

  1. UNICEF Press Release, 24 May 2017.
  2. "RDC: affrontements meurtriers à Tshimbulu, dans le Kasaï-Central" (in French). Radio France Internationale. 14 August 2016, via Wikipedia
  3. Hoebeke, Hans (21 March 2017). "Kamuina Nsapu Insurgency Adds to Dangers in DR Congo". International Crisis Group, via Wikipedia
  4. Vatican Radio, 19 February 2017. http://bit.ly/2lyMJBd

Source (or main source): UNICEF
http://www.unicef.org

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