In Bikoro, Equateur Province, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), acute malnutrition rates are reaching critical levels, according to a recent survey by Action Against Hunger. A new Ebola outbreak is exacerbating the existing hunger crisis in a country where humanitarian activities are largely underfunded.
Action Against Hunger’s teams surveyed the nutrition status of 1,023 children between six months and five years of age in March 2020. The survey reveals a 17.4% prevalence in global acute malnutrition (GAM) and 4% in severe acute malnutrition (SAM) – both exceeding the World Health Organization’s emergency thresholds of 15% and 2%, indicating a serious nutrition crisis.
“Faced with these alarming rates, we were going to launch a nutrition response in 15 health centers, but the recent announcement of Ebola cases in our intervention zone forces us to review our strategy,” explained Benjamin Viénot, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in DRC.
In order to deliver nutrition interventions in these 15 health centers, our teams will implement infection prevention and control measures to control the spread of Ebola and to provide lifesaving treatment to malnourished children without exposing them to the virus.
“Fighting Ebola is essential to avoid multiple, overlapping crises. We are very concerned. Thousands of children's lives are at stake, and we are in a race against time,” said Viénot. "It is already an immense challenge to intervene in hard-to-reach areas like Bikoro, but we do manage to reach malnourished children - 24,570 children were treated last year - through our mobile nutrition emergency response teams.”
Lack of funding to respond to humanitarian crises in DRC makes the fight against malnutrition more challenging. In DRC, 15.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and 1.1 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Just 13% of the funds needed to carry out this year’s humanitarian response have been secured.