Child malnutrition, a rebel armed to the teeth

Malnutrition continues to be a problem in the province of South Kivu, so I think it’s important for me to talk to you about it because it causes a lot of suffering and kills children every second, despite the efforts of the NGOs working to combat it.

At first glance, giving children a proper diet seems like a task that’s doomed to fail for many parents in the province of South Kivu, due to famine, war, and absolute poverty that persists in the area.

And let’s not forget that not planning and spacing out pregnancies also raises child malnutrition in my province. Parents find themselves with the burdens of a large family, reducing the resources they have for the wellbeing of their family as a whole, and the wellbeing of their children in particular.

Additionally, not promoting breastfeeding is a significant factor behind child malnutrition, as children are deprived of the energy and nutrients they need in order to grow and that are found in breast milk, a hygienic and nutritionally perfect food source.

In the province of South Kivu, there are also cases of child malnutrition which result from the parents themselves, who are not properly informed – and sometimes, not informed at all – about the best practices they should adopt to ensure their children get all the right nutrients.

Another cause of child malnutrition is the lack of primary health care, seeing as very often when children fall ill, their parents are not always immediately able to deal with the situation and instead, choose to leave their children at home or take them to a prayer room, with all the risks this brings.

As a result, diseases develop and can reduce children’s appetites and, in turn, how much food they eat. Diseases can also inhibit absorption of food, burn calories and lead to the child losing out on nutrients.

That’s why if some priority measures were taken to reduce child malnutrition, children in South Kivu would be in better health, and we would be able to hope for a reduction in the child mortality rate.

These measures are:

*Support work which helps malnourished children, particularly children in rural areas, in order to cope with famine and to ensure that the future mother has enough food for her own health and to properly nourish her unborn child.

*Promote peace, because wars disregard children’s rights in general and have a particularly big effect on children’s nutrition because of looting, which leads to a lack of agricultural production and food markets. In addition, conflicts also destroy hospitals in which malnourished children can normally seek treatment.

*Plan and space out pregnancies with at least a two-year gap, as this is a good practice to guarantee children’s survival and health.

*Promote regular breastfeeding for the first 6 months of the child’s life, as breast milk is a nutritionally perfect food source and is essential for our children to grow properly.

*Carry out major campaigns on the importance of proper nutrition for children and how to achieve it.

*Make a reality out of article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that children have the right to enjoy the best possible health and to benefit from medical treatment.

The State gives particular importance to primary health care and preventative care, to educating the population and to reducing child mortality. With this aim in mind, countries are encouraging international cooperation and are working to ensure that no child is deprived of the right to access effective medical care, so that we can finally defeat malnutrition the sometimes-fatal rebel.

Photo: UNICEF RDC/2014/Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

Kindly translated from French by Garen Gent-Randall

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Hugues est parlementaire des enfants à Bukavu, dans la province du Nord Kivu. Il étudie à l'Institut Bangu en section littéraire et rêve de travailler pour l'enfance, car l'enfant est toujours victime. Il s’est engagé dans le club de paix de chez lui et aime beaucoup son adage "qui aime la paix prépare l'enfant et non la guerre".

Hugues is a children’s parliamentarian in Bukavu, North Kivu. He studies in the literary section of the Institut Bangu and dreams of working for childhood, because the child is always a victim. He has joined the peace club in his neighbourhood and very much likes his motto “whoever loves peace prepares children not war”.

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