Nearly 400,000 children face acute risk of malnutrition in Greater Kasai in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations Children's Fund said Wednesday.
Violence across five provinces in the region has left critical health infrastructures unable to operate, UNICEF said in a statement. More than one third of centers in the Central Kasai Province alone have been forced to close due to security concerns for staff or lack of medical supplies.
Children also face heightened risk of malnutrition as fighting in the region has made farming difficult for locals, the statement said.
“These children are among the most vulnerable in the country, and now they face a looming crisis if access to basic services is not restored quickly,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Without adequate health care, without access to food and clean water, the lives of hundreds of thousands of children are at risk.”
Since August of last year, the Kasai region in central Congo has been the scene of bloody fighting between the government and an armed group known as Kamwina Nsapu.
Both sides of the conflict have been condemned by the United Nations: the militants for allegedly recruiting children and attacking public buildings and officials; and the security forces for allegedly deploying disproportionate and indiscriminate force in operations against Kamwina Nsapu rebels.
Even before the conflict, Kasai was one of the poorest regions in the DRC.