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KASAI: “The nutritional needs in this region are enormous”

Imagine: your child is hungry, but your food stocks have been depleted. Your child has lost weight and is suffering from diarrhea – you know you need to take your child to a health center, but the nearest ones no longer function. Without care your child could die. This is the situation faced by thousands of parents each day in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s Kasai region, where limited access to proper health care, food and shelter has led to alarmingly high rates of malnutrition among children.

“The nutritional needs in this region are enormous,” said Moumouni Kinda, ALIMA’s program manager for DRC. “Access to primary and secondary health care, and especially treatment for malnutrition, has become difficult because many health centers were destroyed by the conflict.”


To better support the response to the nutritional crisis, ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action) has opened two new projects in the Kalonda West and Kamwesha health zones, which a particular focus on children and pregnant women.


A Crisis Situation


Since August 2016, the provinces of the center-south (Kasaï, Kasaï Central and Kasaï Oriental) have suffered from high levels of insecurity, motivated by clashes between armed groups and Congolese armed forces (FARDC) in the region, as well as major inter-ethnic tensions. At least several thousand people have been killed and OCHA says more than 1.4 million people have been displaced.


Despite a recent lull in fighting in the Kasai region, already-precarious living conditions have significantly deteriorated in recent months, due to the large population displacements, and a lack of access to basic necessities, such as shelter, food and health care. Throughout the region, health workers have fled their posts. Within health centers that are still operational, there isn’t enough medical supplies or medications to meet local health needs. At the same time, a disruption to the normal agricultural cycle the past two years has led to an increase in the number of insecure households – some 3.2 million people, according to OCHA. Estimates show that nearly one-quarter of children under the age of five in Kalonda West suffer from either severe or moderate acute malnutrition.


Kalonda West


In order to help meet the medical and nutritional needs in Kalonda West, and reduce the morbidity and mortality of the populations affected by the crisis, ALIMA  supports preventative and curative pediatric consultations, the prevention, screening and management of severe acute malnutrition (SAM), maternal health and the care of victims of sexual-based violence.


In partnership with Action Against Hunger France (ACF-F), primary health care activities take place in the Ditekemena, Dienzelayi, Kasaï and Kasala health zones, while ALIMA supports the Referral Health Center in Ditekemena with  secondary health care, including support to the pediatrics, malnutrition and neonatal units, as well as the surgical block for cesarean sections. To increase local capacity, hospital staff are trained on good hygiene practices, including proper medical waste disposal.




Following a successful pilot project in Burkina Faso in 2017, ALIMA is implementing the first phase of our innovative OPTIMA (OPTimizing MAlnutrtion treatment) protocol in DRC’s Kamuesha region, as part of a two-year, randomized nutrition trial that compares OPTIMA to standard treatment. During the implementation phase, medical teams are focusing on providing intensive therapeutic treatment to children suffering from SAM, both in the hospital and as part of ambulatory treatment programs.


“For the first time in this area, this project will bring together ALIMA’s deep health and nutrition expertise with an innovative research protocol, while working in close partnership with national health staff,” said Tinou-päi Blanc, ALIMA’s Head of Mission in DRC. “It is a unique model that will allow children to receive the best possible care, while increasing local capacity and transforming the way we treat malnutrition in the future.”


ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action) is a humanitarian medical organization that works hand-in-hand with a network of local medical NGOs to provide quality health care to the most vulnerable people during emergencies and chronic crises. Based in Dakar, Senegal, ALIMA has treated more than 3 million patients in 12 countries since its creation in 2009, and launched 10 research projects focusing on malnutrition, malaria and the Ebola virus.


In DRC, ALIMA has been active since August 2011, with a focus on emergency outbreak response. This includes multiple outbreaks of cholera, measles and Ebola. Between 2013 and 2017 in the former Katanga province,  ALIMA had in place an Emergency Intervention team, known as RUSH, which supported the epidemiological surveillance, investigation and response to possible outbreaks. Our teams now focus on the Kasai region, in Upper Lomami province, where local populations, who have been affected by ongoing conflict, benefit from free medical and nutrition care. 


In 2017, ALIMA treated nearly 1,000 children for severe acute malnutrition, performed some 43,000 outpatient consultations, treated more than 16,000 children for malaria and protected more than 7,300 children with routine vaccinations. 


These activities are made possible thanks to generous financing from the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and The Innocent Foundation.

Photo: Alexis Huguet / ALIMA

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