The biggest child killer

There are many health risks in the DR Congo, but malaria remains the greatest threat, particularly for children.

Leading cause of death

Malaria is the leading cause of death among young children, accounting for over a fifth of all deaths among the under-fives. This means that around 300,000 young children die each year in the DR Congo.

Having caught malaria from the bite of an infected mosquito, children often develop anaemia. This is because the malaria parasite destroys red blood cells. In severe cases, children die unless they receive a blood transfusion.

Foreign aid organisations working in the country are growing concerned because malaria cases are on the rise. One medical charity reported treating 45,000 people in 2009 and this rose to 158,000 in 2010.

Doctor treating a patient

The increase in cases could be due to displacement of communities in some regions, where families flee the fighting and leave their homes and protective bed nets behind.

With limited healthcare services across this vast country, even in stable regions, it’s hard for sufferers to reach medical centres. Parents often leave it too late to bring children in for treatment.

More medical teams and health centres are urgently required to bring the number of deaths from malaria down in the DR Congo. But this will take time, commitment, money and in some places, security.