DRC plagued by alarming famine rate
Brazzaville – The Democratic Republic of Congo has the highest rate of malnutrition in central and west Africa, affecting 43 per cent of children under five, Unicef said on Tuesday.
In central Africa, “some countries have a rate of chronic malnutrition which is still alarming”, Marianne Flach, the representative of the UN children’s agency in Congo, said at the opening of a regional workshop on reducing malnutrition.
At least 75 experts from different countries in central Africa came to take part in the workshop, which will continue until Thursday in a northern suburb of Brazzaville.
The DR Congo, affected by successive wars, is followed by the Central African Republic (40,7 per cent) and Cameroon (32,5 per cent), Flach said, adding that the Congo Republic had 175 000 young children suffering from chronic malnutrition, or a rate of 24,4 per cent.
“Chronic malnutrition is a plague that affects several countries in the world and in Africa. It is the underlying cause of 35 per cent of deaths in the world and can appear in different forms,” Flach added, calling for a “co-ordinated multi-sector response” to eradicate the problem.
According to Unicef, chronic malnutrition shows itself in children by a delayed growth rate, which has “a very negative impact on the health of the child, because he or she runs a higher risk of being infected by chronic non-infectious diseases”.
“The severity and duration of the crisis in the DRC is stretching the ability of many humanitarian agencies to meet the needs of people affected,” Lydia Wamala, a UN World Food Programme (WFP) public information and donor relations officer in Uganda, told IRIN by email.
Fighting erupted in eastern DRC in early 2012, pitting the M23 mutineers against other foreign and Congolese militias as well as the DRC army. Mass population displacement has occurred as a result.
Between January and October 3, at least 47 680 new DRC refugees were registered, in addition to 81 500 other long-term DRC refugees already in the country, according to statistics from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The agency projected that the number of new refugee arrivals could rise to over 50 000 by December. Overall, Uganda is hosting at least 163 000 refugees from the DRC and countries such as Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.
According to Uganda’s State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Musa Ecweru, in addition to food challenges, there is a lack basic infrastructure and a need for medical supplies, equipment, and personnel in the western Uganda refugee camps.
“The challenge is high; we are trying all our best to contain the situation. However, we are overstretched,” Ecweru told IRIN.
On September 27, the Ugandan government, along with UNHCR, established a new transit camp at the Matanda area to cope with the refugee influx. As of October 3, some 3 173 refugees had been registered there, and a further 500 at the border town of Ishasha. The Ishasha refugees are reluctant to relocate into the transit camp, and are hopeful security will improve back home — an estimated 10 000 DRC refugees are reported to have gone back to DRC’s North Kivu region.