The story takes place in the northern part of Equateur (Nord-Ubangi), a remote province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Our mission was to assess the nutritional situation and the care of refugee children from the Central African Republic (CAR) and people in host Health Zones. Accompanied by the Child Survival Administrator and our driver from the Gemena Office, we were going to visit the health zones of Gbadolite and Mobayi-Mbongo.
At this time of year, the rainy season is in full swing in the north of the province. The dirt roads, which were already in poor condition, had become almost unusable.
Despite this, we decided to face up to these challenges because we had to achieve our mission objectives.
It started with the Gemena-Gbadolite leg, around 275km in length. We had already done around 85km of the journey when we came across a huge broken-down lorry which had completely blocked the road. We had to wait 2 hours before it was repaired.
Just 150 metres further along began a series of mud patches, steep and slippery slopes, floods caused by excess rainwater, wooden bridges broken by old tree trunks, or at least in very bad condition, and tree trunks lying across the road.
“It was a real obstacle course, a kind of rally without entry fees between Gemena and Gbadolite.”
Far from discouraging us, our only worry when we were fighting the conditions was achieving our final goal of reaching the children. In the end, we said to ourselves that it was “Po na bana” (For the children in Lingala), so we decided we would brave any obstacle and roll up our sleeves.
And we were able to head off and finally meet the whole team* at Inke refugee camp, in Mobayi-Mbongo health zone (45km fro Gbadolite).
In the camp we met a 24-year-old woman by the name of Virginie Langase and whose 5 children had been admitted to Therapeutic Nutrition Units.
At the time of our visit, 2 of them had already recovered in terms of nutrition and health, and 3 were still following the programme. Her gratitude to UNICEF, the UNHCR and the WFP was very moving, and we soon forgot the obstacles in our way and our exhaustion from the journey.
2 million – The number of children between 6 and 59 months who suffer from severe acute malnutrition in the DRC
According to a rapid nutrition assessment carried out in February 2013 by PRONANUT and the NGO APEE, in this region, the rate of severe acute malnutrition is 7.6% and the rate of global acute malnutrition is 20.6%.
This story is just an example of what we experience almost every day in our fieldwork all over the Equateur region, from north to south, not forgetting the presence of the River Congo and other large rivers, especially in the south of our equatorial province.
The survival and development of children in the RDC are sources of motivation like no other and we will not let a single obstacle stop us on our journey.
Joachim Mubiala Utila is working as a Health Officer for Unicef in the Province of Equateur, Democratic Republic of the Congo
To find out more about malnutrition in the DRC, read this article from our expert (In French):
Read the original article in French on Pona Bana:
Main photo: A Unicef vehicle crosses a bridge made of tree trunks in the village of Bokurubi in Businga Health Zone towards Gbadolite Health Zone (Equateur) © Unicef DRC/2014/Joachim Utila