DAKAR, May 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Spiralling
violence in central Democratic Republic of Congo has disrupted
farming and shut down health centres, leaving hundreds of
thousands of children vulnerable to life-threatening
malnutrition, UNICEF said on Wednesday.
An insurrection against the government in the central
Greater Kasai region has left hundreds dead and uprooted more
than 1 million people since last July, with the United Nations
warning of a "dramatically deteriorating" humanitarian
In Central Kasai - one of the region's five provinces - more
than a third of health centres have been forced to close due to
insecurity, while food supplies are dwindling, and hygiene and
sanitation conditions are worsening, according to UNICEF.
The conflict has left an estimated 400,000 children in the
region facing severe acute malnutrition, the U.N. agency 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," UNICEF's regional director
Marie-Pierre Poirier said in a statement.
Reaching these children in Greater Kasai's remote areas,
identifying those who are malnourished and providing therapeutic
food is challenging given the insecurity, UNICEF said.
Even before the recent surge in violence, the region was one
of the poorest in Congo.
More than one in 10 children in the region die before the
age of five due to a lack of adequate health care, and half
suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting, UNICEF said.
Ethnic violence in Congo, Africa's second-largest country,
has spread and worsened since December when President Joseph
Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate.
Analysts fear growing violence could spark a repeat of the
conflicts between 1996 and 2003, mostly in the east, in which
millions died, mainly from hunger and disease.
The conflict has forced at least 1.5 million people to flee
their homes within Congo so far this year - more than triple the
number uprooted within Syria and five times the number within
Iraq, the Norwegian Refugee Council said this week.
The total number of displaced throughout Congo has more than
doubled to 3.7 million since August 2016, with 1.3 million of
them uprooted within the Kasai region, according to the U.N.
Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The U.N. has received just 19 percent of the $812.5 million
sought in the humanitarian appeal for Congo this year, the
U.N.'s Financial Tracking Service shows.
(Writing By Kieran Guilbert, editing by Alisa Tang. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.