Shadow cast on World Food Day as thousands face starvation in southern D.R.

    As the world unites this October 16th to recognize the plight of the
    hungry, Action Against Hunger intervenes to address massive childhood
    malnutrition crisis in forgotten region of DRC.

KANANGA & MBUJI-MAYI, D.R. Congo, Oct. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - The global humanitarian group Action Against Hunger / ACF International is calling for urgent action to treat the thousands of children with severe acute malnutrition in the Kasai provinces of southern Democratic Republic of Congo. Recent nutrition surveys uncovered an alarming number of children with the life-threatening condition in an area largely neglected by international donors, who are focused on the country's war-torn eastern region.

Action Against Hunger has fanned out across the area in an effort to contain the crisis. In coordination with local authorities, ACF teams treated 6,500 severely malnourished children in 16 zones in Kasai Oriental and Occidental during the first half of 2009. In the majority of Kasai zones surveyed, more than 10% of children are suffering from acute malnutrition-a proportion that exceeds the emergency level designated by the Congolese Ministry of Health.

"We admitted more children into our therapeutic nutrition programs in southern Congo during the first six months of this year than we did throughout the entire country in all of 2008," said Karine Milhorgne, Action Against Hunger's Desk Officer for D.R. Congo. "While the Congo's troubled east continues to receive the bulk of international funding, Kasai is undergoing a silent emergency that requires our attention."

Action Against Hunger's approach combines direct care for affected children with technical and logistical support for local actors working in the area. Treatment for severe acute malnutrition-a condition caused when nutrient-deprived bodies consume their own tissues-involves an intensive therapeutic regimen designed to jump-start children's metabolisms.

"The gravity of the situation requires that we scale-up treatment programs," said Marie-Sophie Whitney, Senior Nutrition Advisor for Action Against Hunger. "Even though this area no longer bears the brunt of the violence, donors should still consider it an emergency."

A confluence of factors has contributed to this nutritional crisis. The economy of southern Congo, which is rich in diamonds, gold, and nickel, was devastated during the global financial downturn when the price of minerals plummeted and mining companies closed. Many workers previously engaged in the mineral industry shifted to agriculture production to eke out a living but have struggled without the appropriate skills and access to seeds and tools.

"Hundreds of thousands of Congolese lost their jobs and livelihoods when the mining industry collapsed and have returned to their villages to find nothing," Milhorgne said.

In addition to its work in Kasai, Action Against Hunger carries out programs in nutrition, food security, and water and sanitation in Province Orientale, Katanga, North and South Kivu, Bandundu, and Kinshasa. It has been in the country since 1996.


Action Against Hunger / Action contre la Faim / ACF-CANADA is a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger. Recognized as a leader in the fight against malnutrition, ACF works to save the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with sustainable access to safe water and long-term solutions to hunger. With 30 years of expertise in emergency situations of conflict, natural disaster, and chronic food insecurity, ACF runs life-saving programs in some 40 countries benefitting 5 million people each year.

/NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available at Images are free to accredited members of the media/

SOURCE Action Against Hunger (AAH)

For further information: For further information: Natalie Ryan, Communications & Fundraising Coordinator, (514) 279-4876 x 227,

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