By Linda Bordoni
Over 770,000 children under five years of age suffer severe malnutrition and risk starvation in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai region.
Catholic Bishops of the central region where guerrilla-linked violence has forced almost 1.5 million people from their homes, sounded the alarm this week and launched an appeal for immediate assistance to avert a humanitarian castastrophe.
The Catholic Bishops of the Grand Kasai region explained that guerrilla-linked insecurity and violence has resulted in traditionally high malnutrition rates to sky-rocket and said it is the most vulnerable who are paying the highest price.
The worst affected dioceses, they say, are the archdiocese of Kananga and the dioceses of Luiza, Luebo and a part of the diocese of Mweka.
During their pastoral visits to those dioceses, the local Bishops said they personally witnessed the humanitarian drama and the state of serious malnutrition of the populations.
In Kananga, the capital of Kasai province, they said various parishes welcome malnourished children, but its Archbishop, Marcel Madila, called for "an urgent and massive intervention because a difficult period, the dry season is about to begin”.
“If the children are not assisted now, he said, we risk having thousands of deaths".
Caritas Congo is working closely with the 8 diocesan Caritas offices of the Ecclesiastical Province of Kananga to prepare a response plan for this crisis, the effects of which – Caritas offices say – are expected to be even worse than the Ebola epidemic.
Political tensions and mineral interests
The complex humanitarian situation in DRC was brought about by decades of conflict, compounded by new rebellions and political tensions after the country’s electoral commission failed to organize a presidential poll for two years after the term of President Kabila ended in 2016.
The central Grand Kasai region is a vast area divided into five provinces, rich in diamonds, but plagued by territorial and political tensions over competing mineral interests.