Chronic malnutrition in South Kivu

Earlier this year I traveled with UNICEF to Bunyakiri village in South Kivu province, eastern DRC to cover a story about children under the age of three who suffers from chronic malnutrition.

The village itself is highly remote, and we had to travel for six hours from Bukavu on mud roads, if the old trucks carrying goods get stuck in the mud which they often do, you could wait for hours before being able to continue the journey.

Most of the villagers in Bunyakiri and neighboring smaller villages don’t dare to walk even 2 kilometers outside the somewhat safety that the village provides. And the reason is that all around them, out in the jungle different rebel groups roaming around, raiding villages attacking villagers, raping women, and this creates a very complex problem for the inhabitants. The biggest issue is that the villagers are afraid and can’t head out from the village and use their small land and farms to grow crops and plants for the much needed food.

In the old hospital there is multiple young children with symptoms from malnutrition, and two young kids are treated for severe acute malnutrition.

One is so weak, he can’t even hold his eyes open, and the other young boys skin have shifted color along the legs because of the lack of nutrition, both are under five years old.

The few doctors in the hospital is fed up, and where most people would have lost hope, they keep working providing their patience with the treatment they can provide, which is barley enough.

A small drive through the other side of the village, surrounded by giant green looming hills and breathtaking landscape, there is another medical center. Where ordered chaos takes place.

In the small white tent, wooden benches is placed out close together and young mothers with their children is queuing for what seems like an eternity to see the two stressed doctors who weight their children and looking for signs of chronic malnutrition.

Two local women have gathered a group of mothers close to the mobile clinic for a cooking class, to show them how to make healthy nutritious food from local crops that they can grown in their own backyard to.

They mix bananas, groundnuts, water and stir the sweet smelling porridge before ration it out in colorful plastic cups to each and everyone.

Both the mothers and their children try the nutritious drink and everyone agrees that it’s something they would be able to do at home, and they all seem to like it very much.

The small scale work that is being done in the remote village in Eastern Congo will surely have an impact for the young ones.

The only problem is that it’s small scale and much more is needed to truly fight the chronic malnutrition in the area.

By Fredrik Lerneryd