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DRC: Man-made malnutrition crisis threatens hundreds of thousands of children's lives

Download new photos and b-roll from Kasai

A major man-made malnutrition crisis is threatening hundreds of thousands of young lives in conflict-riven parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo:  

  • A brutal conflict in the DRC’s Kasai region has seen more than 3,300 people killed and 1.4 million forced to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands of children, according to the United Nations.
  • Save the Children's staff on-the-ground say some displaced children are now surviving on just three meals a week and families are unable to reach food markets due to lack of access.
  • Despite the recent reduction in fighting, the UN warns that up to 400,000 children could die from malnutrition in the coming months due to a severe lack of funds.
  • Our staff hear reports of children being forcibly recruited, or used as human shields. 

Heather Kerr, Country Director for Save the Children DRC said the country is facing one of the world’s largest, yet also most underreported, emergencies – and lifesaving programmes are now under threat.

“Right now, hundreds of thousands of young lives hang in the balance because the world has turned its back on the children of DRC,” Ms Kerr said.

“With the 2018 humanitarian appeal only 3% funded, it’s time for governments and donors to step up and commit to doing all that they can to save children’s lives.”

Save the Children staff have treated thousands of children for malnutrition since August 2017, including one-year-old Benjamin*, who is severely malnourished.

His mother Kapinga’s* story is in the content collection.

Kapinga fled her village in December after it was attacked by an armed group and lost her husband in the chaos. She said:

“They killed people, destroyed our things and stole our livestock. Everyone ran away. We had nothing left and nothing to eat.”

“I brought the child to the hospital in a very bad state. But since he started to receive treatment, starting with milk, I can see his health beginning to improve.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  • Fighting killed at least 3,383 people in the central Kasai region between October 2016 and June 2017, according to the Catholic Church.
  • 1.4 million people were forced to flee their homes at the height of the crisis, according to UN OCHA.

For interviews, call Mike Sunderland on +221 771 559 234 or Lily Partland on +44 7721 261997

INTERVIEW SUMMARIES:

  • Displaced mother Ngalula* says she fled her home with two young children when she heard gunshots in her village. Her home was destroyed and her daughter was suffering from malnutrition with swollen hands and feet and a high fever. She is now being treated at the hospital.
  • Kapinga* says she ran away from her village after soldiers arrived and began killing people, destroying property and stealing livestock. She was separated from her husband, and she’s been unable to find enough food to feed herself and her young son who was in a very bad state when he arrived at hospital. He’s now being treated and he’s starting to improve.
  • Save the Children Nutrition Officer Richard Cibangu says the high rates of malnutrition are due to lack of access to food and availability of food. He says families at the hospital don’t have anything to eat, and some don’t have any clothes.