DRC. Overcoming superstition for the nutritional health of children in Ituri
09-02-2024 | di COOPI

DRC. Overcoming superstition for the nutritional health of children in Ituri

For more than two decades, the Ituri district in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the scene of continuous armed conflict between different armed groups, resulting in mass displacement and severe food insecurity. The risk of child mortality is extremely high: nearly 48,000 children under the age of 5 now suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

In this dramatic context, COOPI - International Cooperation is committed to support the Congolese government in preventing and combating acute malnutrition. COOPI is working in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Hygiene and Prevention in the project "Supporting the Prevention and Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition in the Health Zones of Nizi, Tchomia, Biringi and Laybo in the Ituri Territory," which started in May 2023. The project, financed by UNICEF with funds from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and USAID's Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), aims to reduce morbidity and mortality in children under 5 years old with severe and moderate acute malnutrition.

COOPI is committed to identifying and managing the health of children with malnutrition, providing free and targeted care to improve their health status. At the same time, COOPI engages in awareness-raising activities, which are crucial in preventing malnutrition and promoting healthier eating behaviors within communities. Jean, COOPI's community coordinator in Uria, talks about the importance of awareness raising in the fight against malnutrition:

Severe Acute Malnutrition is considered by my community as a curse or a spell. As if it was a punishment inflicted by the ancestors on those who committed some misdeed: a disgrace that burdens children and makes them sick until their parents make amends. That's why raising awareness has become my battlefield." 

Thanks to the work of educators like Jean and a strong awareness campaign, disseminated in more than 300 educational spots and radio programs, today many of these ancestral beliefs have been overcome, and more than sixteen thousand parents and caregivers have received accurate guidance on nutrition and child health.

In 8 months of the project, more than 37,000 children were screened, 7,000 of whom were hospitalized and returned to health thanks to the medical care provided by the project. Stories like those of David, a 15-month-old boy from Ngeria, testify the success of COOPI's activities. Abandoned by his mother and left in the care of his grandmother, David presented symptoms of acute malnutrition. Thanks to the careful analysis of the medical staff, he was immediately identified as a critical case and admitted to the intensive nutritional therapeutic unit. After a period of constant medical care, David made significant progress in his recovery.

 I leave with a smile on my face and would like to thank all the hospital staff and COOPI for taking care of my grandson," 

the grandmother said.

COOPI's more than 40 years of presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and more than 20 in the province of Ituri enable in-depth knowledge of the country. Particular attention is paid to the prevention, care and nutritional support of thousands of malnourished children and mothers, hygiene practices and agricultural strategies in place to deal with food emergencies.