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Bringing Capacity To Scale: Treating Malnutrition in D.R. Congo

Nan Dale, Chief Executive Officer of Action Against Hunger USA, explains how investments in child nutrition are having a critically important impact during the “window of opportunity” that exists between pre-pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
Credit: Shravan Vidyarthi
Teaching at a nutrition center in DR Congo. Credit: Shravan Vidyarthi

Note: This post originally appears as a guest post over on the 1,000 Days blog.

Thanks to the collective efforts of so many individuals, agencies and organizations, investments in child nutrition are having a critically important impact during the “window of opportunity” that exists between pre-pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. And the advent of partnerships like 1,000 Days and Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) only seems to cement the growing recognition that prioritizing child nutrition delivers high returns, avoids irreversible harms and enhances long-term economic prospects.

While many countries with high levels of undernutrition haven’t formally joined the SUN movement, encouraging signs can be found of broader commitments to tackling deadly malnutrition and bolstering child nutrition. One example is the D.R. Congo, with its “extremely alarming” levels of undernutrition, according to the 2010 Global Hunger Index by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Having worked in the D.R. Congo since 1997, we've developed a long-standing relationship with the country’s Ministry of Health when it launched a new strategic direction in 2006 to strengthen the capacity of the country’s health systems to combat deadly malnutrition. This collaboration with the Ministry of Health has resulted in highly successful innovations like the Emergency Nutrition Pool (the PUNC, or Pool d’urgence nutritionnelle au Congo), and the Enhanced Nutrition Program (RPN, or Renforcement du programme nutrition) that have enabled the government to deploy medical resources, technical know-how and nutritional support across its vast territory in response to deadly outbreaks of malnutrition.

The D.R. Congo may not yet subscribe to the SUN framework, but certainly none of these innovations would have been possible without serious government commitments. And the end results speak for themselves: in 2010 alone, Action Against Hunger’s teams—through our partnership with the Ministry of Health—trained 4,000 Congolese health workers, equipped 476 treatment centers and ensured lifesaving treatment for a record 42,000 individuals suffering deadly severe acute malnutrition.

As an impressive example of a country-specific response to undernutrition, the D.R. Congo deserves recognition as we celebrate the broader successes that mark the one-year anniversary of the SUN movement. See the video below for an example of how our work in D.R. Congo has benefited one particular family.

About Nan Dale

Nan Dale is Action Against Hunger's Chief Executive Officer. She has had a distinguished career in the international humanitarian field, as well as in public health, child welfare and juvenile justice.

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