oa South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition - Increased mining activities in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo : an opportunity to improve the nutritional status of children under five-years-old : original research



Household poverty and poor access to health and other social amenities are key drivers of malnutrition and poor child health in most low-resources settings. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the backdrop of past instability, experiences a host of socioeconomic factors that effectively result in malnutrition among under-five children - despite immense natural resources. Recent stability and enormous mineral resource wealth has attracted mining companies to invest in the eastern provinces of the country, presenting an opportunity to improve the nutritional and overall health status of children in the region. We therefore sought to describe the prevalence of malnutrition in the region, cognisant of these developments.

Seven hundred and sixty-two under-five children from 420 households in two districts in the eastern DRC were assessed in this survey. We calculated their malnutrition indicators and made comparisons between semi-urban and rural children; taking semi-urban as a good proxy for populations within the coverage of mining activities. For each indicator, all children whose appropriate parameters were available were included in the evaluation with a plausible z-score.
An estimated 21.5% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 18.5-24.5) of the children assessed were found to be underweight, with 6.8% being severely underweight. However, the prevalence of wasting among these children was estimated at 5.8% (95% CI: 4.1%-7.6%), which was lower than the national average of 16%. Of significance, the age groups six to 11 and 12 to 23 months were found to be more wasted compared to other age categories. Within the six- to 11-months age category, rural children fared better than their semi-urban counterparts at 5% (95% CI: 0%-13%) and 14.6% (95% CI: 13.6%-25.6%) respectively.
We conclude that malnutrition among under-five children is a significant problem in the eastern DRC. Business investment in the region offers real opportunities to comprehensively address these pressing challenges that face communities. Businesses keen to address malnutrition need to be cognisant of the prevalence of the problem and its contextual drivers, particularly on the socio-economic front, to be able to conceptualise appropriate responses.


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