August 01, 1999

40% of Children Under Five Suffering from Malnutrition

Paris/New York, August 2, 1999 — Twenty-thousand people who were displaced by fighting have returned to Brazzaville, the capital of Congo Republic, during the past 15 days. Of this number, 7,045 returned on July 31. Their health is extremely precarious.

Systematic screening of 13,125 of the displaced persons by the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières team from July 18 to 24 showed that that 40 percent of the children under age 5 are malnourished. Twenty percent are severely malnourished.

"These children require medical care in a specialized center with six to eight meals per day," said Dr. Cabrol of MSF. "There are already 955 children registered in three therapeutic feeding centers, and we need urgently to expand our capacity for serving them."

In all, nearly 2,000 children today are being cared for by humanitarian organizations present in Brazzaville. Malnutrition is equally severe in adults.

Last December, 200,000 inhabitants of southern Brazzaville fled to the forest and remained there without any assistance for several months. Those who are returning now are exhausted and there are many victims of violence among them. In the health structures where MSF works, 300 women have said that they have been raped, often repeatedly, since May 1. We feel that this number is an underestimate. Approximately 40,000 of the people who were displaced from the capital have not yet returned; among them are 1,600 severely malnourished children who will need emergency health care upon their return.

MSF has 11 international volunteers working in Brazzaville, Congo Republic.

For more information, please call Barbara Kancelbaum, Communications Director, at 212-655-3763.

MSF is the world's largest independent international medical relief agency aiding victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and others who lack health care due to geographic remoteness or ethnic marginalization in more than 80 countries.

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