DRC: Tackling the root causes of malnutrition
Monday 22 April 2013
Jessica Bourdaire, Save the Children nutrition manager, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo
As Nutrition Programme Manager for Save the Children in eastern Congo, I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of our nutrition projects.
It’s a challenging job – coordinating with other aid agencies and the UN, getting updates on the latest malnutrition levels, visiting health centres to make sure our work is happening on time and to the required standard, supervising staff, monitoring budgets… the list goes on, and there is never a quiet moment!
Chronic and complex
When people think of Congo, conflict and displacement are often the first things that come to mind – I have found that people rarely think about malnutrition. But conflict directly affects a child’s ability to get enough of the right foods, and the nutrition situation here is chronic and very complex.
The reasons behind malnutrition are endless – a family may not have enough money to buy food, or know which foods are nutritious, they may be forced to flee their home and so can’t farm their fields, or they may be unable to reach a health centre due to an outbreak of violence.
In response to the outbreak of conflict in November last year, Save the Children launched an emergency nutrition project. Through this project, our teams identify, refer and treat malnourished children in 24 health structures through the region.
As well as treating the symptoms of malnutrition through these health centres, we also educate communities on nutrition, teach healthy hygiene practices and explain how to identify a malnourished child.
Through this work we are fighting the deepest causes of malnutrition – and so making our work more sustainable.
Tackling the root causes
A few weeks ago, at a displacement camp, I met a three-year-old child suffering from Kwashiorkor. I could tell instantly that she was suffering from this type of malnutrition – her hair had turned orange and her face, legs and arms were swollen.
It’s so important not to focus just on the symptoms and how to treat them, but to remember that behind them there is a little girl being overwhelmed by this devastating disease.
Save the Children not only saves lives by providing emergency care, but we also tackle the root causes of the problem.
No child born to die
What we are doing here, little or big, depends on donations. We believe that no child is born to die and I know our nutrition work is saving the lives of some of the most vulnerable here in eastern Congo.