Launch of a Common Narrative about the fight against malnutrition in DRC
In Kinshasa on 30 October 2017, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) launched the Common Narrative for the fight against malnutrition: a high-level multisectoral commitment and coordination in support of the fight against chronic malnutrition in DRC.
Malnutrition is the most important underlying cause of infant and child mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Every year, 160,000 children die in DRC from causes related to malnutrition. Unlike acute malnutrition, which manifests as severe emaciation or nutritional oedema, chronic malnutrition does its deadly work over a longer period, slowing the child’s physical and intellectual development. An inadequate and insufficient diet can lead to malnutrition, which is detected by checking height against age. Little-known, chronic malnutrition has a direct impact on children’s well-being, their growth, their cognitive development and their education. Chronic malnutrition is also damaging to a country’s economy, because it leads to significant productivity losses.
“There is an urgent need to strengthen, integrate and coordinate policies to combat chronic malnutrition. Together with our partners, we must develop new strategies to significantly reduce the number of children with slow growth in DRC.”
Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, DRC Minister of Health,
Since 2013, DRC has been a member of the Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, whose aim is to reverse the trend of chronic malnutrition. The Government of DRC is conducting a range of interventions together with partners including UNICEF and the World Bank. These particularly focus on the creation of the institutional framework needed for multi-stakeholder, multisectoral action, through Prime Ministerial Decree No. 05/042 of 15 December 2015 on the creation, organization and operation of the National Multisectoral Committee on Nutrition. They also include the promotion of selected nutrition interventions, particularly breast feeding, complementary feeding from the age of six months and improved hygiene and sanitation practices, which are most important during the first thousand days of life, that is, from conception through to the child’s second birthday. These nutrition interventions need to be complemented by contributions in the areas of nutrition-sensitive agriculture, social protection, children’s early development and the promotion of women, water and sanitation.
— Dr. Oly Ilunga (@OlyIlunga) October 30, 2017
To progressively scale up these specific nutrition interventions, existing approaches at various levels need to be optimized and invigorated. These are infant check-ups in health centres, community-based nutrition in communities, child health days as mass activities, acute malnutrition units in health centres and hospitals and antenatal and postnatal check-ups for women and in nurseries.
“Fighting malnutrition requires a multisectoral approach. Scaling up proven, low-cost interventions is very important. Community-based nutrition, which is an approach consisting of implementing high-impact nutrition interventions in the community yields excellent results and needs to be extended throughout every community of DRC.”
Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, Acting UNICEF Representative in DRC
It is against this background that the Common Narrative for the fight against malnutrition has been created under the leadership of the Ministry of Public Health, looking to create a synergy of action of all the actors and sectors involved in the area of nutrition. It is important to act to prevent cases of chronic malnutrition in women, infants and young women as a priority to reduce child mortality, improve child health and guarantee the individual, social and economic development of the country. “Chronic malnutrition leads to irreversible losses of human capital, which contribute to reduced economic productivity. Children who are malnourished in their early years have cognitive deficits and more modest school results. In the longer term, slow growth leads to a 10 to 17 per cent loss in income over a working life. This leads to significant economic losses, of the order of 3 to 8 per cent of gross domestic product”, said Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye, World Bank Director of Operations for DRC.
To bring about a general and sustainable reduction in malnutrition rates in children aged under five, further resources need to be mobilized, nutrition leadership needs to strengthened and the high-level coordination mechanism needs to be activated, including all the key sectors and also integrating nutrition into the country’s various development plans (those of agriculture, food security and education).
The DRC Government and its partners are working side by side to give the greatest possible number of Congolese children access to simple interventions adapted to the local diet and with impacts proven to be high in the fight against malnutrition.