AMHERST, Massachusetts —War is one of the leading causes of hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), causing many susceptible populations to be pushed into even worse conditions. The DRC is is still attempting to find steady ground after their five-year war ended in 2005. The U.N.’s most substantial unit of 20,000 soldiers is based in the DRC to oversee and keep the peace.
Unfortunately, a recent breakout in Goma has amplified the hunger crisis in the DRC and created a standstill in the progress that was being made.
The fight this past November between the DRC and its neighboring country Rwanda, involved the Rwandan rebels crossing the Congo border and seizing the recent crop from fields and food from the homes of many residents. Numerous homeowners fled and multiplied the already large number of people relocated due to preceding conflicts.
Congolese refugees often try to find shelter in areas close to their fields, but are usually forced to leave because of the lack of food and protection. Some find refuge with host families, but those families are usually under pressure to find sources of food as well.
An estimated 130,000 people in Goma are said to have escaped from their homes and farms following November’s attack.
Sarah Carrie, manager at Goma’s World Vision stated, “The lost harvest has increased chronic vulnerability in terms of access to food.”
Since 1998, 5.4 million people have died due to hunger in the Congo, war-violence, and disease; approximately 45,000 continually die each month from starvation. Many “ethnic rivalries” fight for ownership of natural resources and innocent civilians typically endure the backlash.
Due to the large amounts of gold, minerals and diamonds, the Congo should be a wealthy country, but disease, hunger, and displacement from wars have caused millions of people to struggle.
Currently, 30 percent of children five and under are suffering from undernutrition and malnourishment, which is taking a toll on their immune systems and making them more susceptible to disease, infections and death.
A care group called Food for the Hungry (FH) is using armbands called MUACs to establish if a child is underweight; if the red colored section of the band shows, then the child is considered underweight. This method allows doctors to quickly determine the child’s health condition for the parents, as well as supply the parents with information on how to plan nutrient rich meals, or in some severe instances, recommend hospitalization for children who are dangerously malnourished.
Food for the Hungry trains mothers from communities to be care group leaders so that they are able to continue to educate other women on how to make nutrient rich meals from natural resources and form healthy lifestyles such as hygiene and sanitation.
Just one Food for the Hungry care group, consisting of 10 care leaders, is able to teach 600 women, which cuts costs without jeopardizing the massive benefits. Multiple women are seeing the rewards of the FH care groups and the impact it has made on the health of their children.
Information is quickly passing through villages and transforming the health of hundreds of children and slowly pulling the children suffering from hunger in the DRC out of the red zone.
– Rebecca Felcon