UN agencies say further scaling up of assistance urgently needed as new report highlights widespread food insecurity

Rome – New findings indicate the food crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) shows little sign of abating and could worsen in the coming months without scaled-up assistance, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

Some 27 million people, one-quarter of DRC’s population, face crisis or emergency levels of severe hunger, fueled by poor harvests, violence-driven displacement, disease and collapsing infrastructure, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, which was also issued today.

The number of people in the country who fall in the IPC’s crisis phase of severe hunger levels, or IPC 3, is higher than any other country analysed by the IPC.

The new IPC report, showing even areas in and around the capital Kinshasa badly affected, forecasts the alarming hunger numbers are likely to remain unchanged through the first half of 2022. Indeed, the nutrition picture could even worsen in some regions and among particularly vulnerable groups, including young children and pregnant or nursing mothers.

“The food situation for many people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains desperate, with so many different obstacles – insecurity, disease, devastation and lack of infrastructure, low access to quality inputs and finance to name but a few – ganging up against their chances of being able to properly feed themselves and their families. The only way to break the cycle and shift these trends is to help them increase their resilience and productivity,” said Aristide Ongone, the FAO Representative in the DRC

“These numbers are a wake-up call for more action and to do things differently,” said U.N. World Food Programme DRC Country Representative and Country Director, Peter Musoko. “Right now, it feels like we’re bailing out a leaky boat. We need to get together with the government, our partners and the private sector, to figure out how to give hope to the people of this country.”

The DRC’s food crisis stems from a toxic mix of factors. Agricultural production has languished amid violence and insecurity, which have cut off whole communities from their fields. Transport and communication infrastructure are crumbling. Multiple armed groups have displaced millions, especially in the Northeast, where insecurity is on the rise in two particular hotspots, despite a state of emergency imposed in May.

Even where food is available, high prices and falling incomes mean many people are unable to afford proper nutrition.

While the country has experienced a complex and protracted crisis for over two decades, the devastating effects of natural disasters have also been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19.

The pandemic and measures to contain its spread have devastated the economy, with the local currency plunging and millions losing their jobs, including in the informal sector. Agricultural livelihoods have been hard hit due to a mix of factors, from the coronavirus fallout to insecurity, which have limited farmers’ access to inputs and markets, shrunk production and decimated crops and livestock.

FAO Action to Support the Most Vulnerable

FAO has already scaled up its support to the most vulnerable in country to fast track an effective response to the scope, urgency and complexity of the crisis. Its action to reach 1.1 million people needs a total of $65 million, but so far only $4.5 million of that have been funded.

The focus is on increasing households’ access to tools and seeds; providing quality livestock, which plays a key role in improving nutrition; supporting food processes and storage; and helping small farmers in the fight against animal and plant diseases. This year, FAO aims to provide lifesaving livelihood assistance to 1.1 million people in areas affected by high levels of severe hunger.

In 2021, FAO has provided nearly 160,000 people with seeds and tools, allowing them to produce more than 10,000 tonnes of food; given cash transfers to more than 40,000 people to strengthen their resilience in producing their own food; and vaccinated more than 25,000 cattle against pasteurellosis, among other activities.

WFP’s Response to the Hunger Crisis

The U.N. World Food Programme plans to reach 8.7 million people in DRC in 2021 with food, nutrition and cash-based assistance – nearly two million more than last year – despite an extremely tough operating environment. The support ranges from meeting the immediate food and nutritional needs of the most vulnerable to building longer-term resilience for children and their families. The U.N. World Food Programme’s school feeding program aims to reach 200,000 children in the 2021-22 academic year and half-a-million by 2024.

Together with UNICEF and FAO, the U.N. World Food Programme launched an urban hunger-fighting project, on the outskirts of Kinshasa. The initiative provides cash-transfers to some 100,000 extremely vulnerable people in the commune of N’sele, hard hit by the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Overall, the U.N. World Food Programme needs $99 million through April 2022 to reach those most needing support.

Note for editors:

High resolution photos available on request

Broadcast quality footage available here

Read the full IPC report here

The IPC  is a global, multi partner initiative that facilitates improved decision-making through the provision of consensus-based food insecurity and malnutrition analysis.

The term “high levels of acute food insecurity” (or acute hunger) refers to populations that are in IPC phase 3 or higher.

Populations classified in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) need urgent action to save lives, reduce food consumption gaps and protect livelihoods. In Phase 3, families may resort to less preferred or less nutritious food or may skip meals or sell productive assets to put food on the table; in Phase 4, they may resort to more extreme strategies such as selling the last animal that provided them with a means of livelihood or begging.

KINSHASA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started providing emergency food rations to people displaced from their homes in Goma by the sudden eruption of Nyiragongo volcano on May 22.

The U.N. World Food Programme and partners have so far delivered food to some 43,000 displaced people in Sake, Minova and Rutshuru, towns close to Goma that have seen an influx of people fleeing their homes.  Thousands of displaced people remain scattered across the region amid warnings of further eruptions. Those who have had to flee their homes have been receiving 10-day rations of flour, legumes, oil and salt.

“People are feeling helpless and getting desperate. The families that have fled are completely reliant on government and aid agencies for basics like food, water and shelter,” said Erwan Rumen, the U.N. World Food Programme’s Eastern Area Coordinator. “The U.N. World Food Programme is very concerned about the food and nutrition situation of the people forced out of their homes. We are providing them with the food assistance they need in this crisis.”

The eruption left more than 30 dead and caused an estimated 400,000 people to either flee their homes or to be evacuated. Families who left with their few belongings, either headed north on foot on the Rutshuru/Beni road, recently cleared of the lava that had blocked it, or round the lake towards the towns of Sake and Minova, located 17 miles and 29 miles west of Goma, respectively. Some with vehicles continued further south to Bukavu.

Based on assessments carried out over the past week, the U.N. World Food Programme aims to reach a total of 40,000 people in Sake, 65,000 in Minova and 60,000 in Rutshuru, while the U.N. World Food Programme in Rwanda is providing emergency food assistance to many others who have crossed the border.

Jointly with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.N. World Food Programme is also delivering food to 300 children who have been separated from their families in the chaos that followed the eruption.

North Kivu is already facing armed conflict, mainly in Beni territory where attacks on civilians continue. In efforts to bring stability to this conflict-hit province, the government has declared a security emergency there, and in Ituri, immediately to the north. Shortly after military rule was introduced, Nyiragongo erupted.

Notes to editor:

For high-resolution pictures, click here.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media and @WFPDRC

Over 27 million Congolese – one in three people – are now critically hungry.

Kinshasa/Rome – In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the food security situation remains dire with one in three people – a record high – suffering from acute hunger, two United Nations agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

The number of people affected by high acute food insecurity in the DRC is estimated at 27.3 million or one in three people, including nearly seven million people grappling with emergency levels of acute hunger (IPC 4), according to the latest Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.

This makes the central African country home to the highest number of people in urgent need of food security assistance in the world.

“For the first time ever we were able to analyze the vast majority of the population, and this has helped us to come closer to the true picture of the staggering scale of food insecurity in the DRC,” said Peter Musoko, the U.N. World Food Programme’s representative in DRC. “This country should be able to feed its population and export a surplus. We cannot have children going to bed hungry and families skipping meals for an entire day.”

Conflict remains a key cause of hunger with large swathes of the conflict-affected eastern provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika, as well as the central region of the Kasais, the scene of recent conflict, the worst hit. Other key factors compounding this crisis include the slump in DRC’s economy and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.

“The recurring conflicts in eastern DRC and the suffering they bring remain of great concern. Social and political stability is essential to strengthen food security and boost the resilience of vulnerable populations. We need to urgently focus on growing food where it is needed most, and on keeping people’s sustenance-giving animals alive. The main agricultural season is around the corner and there is no time to waste,” said Aristide Ongone Obame, FAO Representative in DRC.

Behind the numbers are the stories of parents deprived of access to their land, or forced to flee for their lives, watching their children fall sick for lack of food. U.N. World Food Programme staff have met families who have returned to their village to find their home burnt to the ground and their crops entirely looted. Some have been surviving by eating only taro, a root that grows wild, or only cassava leaves boiled in water.

The most affected populations are mainly the displaced, refugees, returnees, host families and those affected by natural disasters (floods, landslides, fires) as well as female-headed households. Added to this are the poorest populations in urban and peri-urban areas and those living in landlocked areas with low purchasing power and access to food through markets.

FAO and the U.N. World Food Programme call for urgent intervention to scale up support to Congolese in crisis areas.

FAO is focusing on increasing households’ access to tools and seeds; providing quality livestock, which plays a key role in improving nutrition; supporting food processes and storage; and helping small farmers in the fight against animal and plant diseases. This year, FAO aims to provide life-saving livelihood assistance to 1.1 million people in areas affected by high acute food insecurity.

As part of its famine prevention work, the U.N. World Food Programme is providing lifesaving food to 8.7 million people in DRC. In addition, the U.N. World Food Programme needs notably to be able to continue its work in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition, which affects 3.3 million children in DRC. Malnutrition in early childhood affects children for the rest of their lives, impairing their ability to realize their full potential and contribute to their communities.

In a move towards a longer-term solution, FAO and the U.N. World Food Programme are investing in resilience building projects that support community farming to boost yields, reduce losses and spur access to markets. These projects help communities build their lives and create a pathway to peace.

Note to editors | The IPC is a global, multi-partner initiative that facilitates improved decision-making through the provision of consensus-based food insecurity and malnutrition analysis. The term “high levels of acute food insecurity” (or acute hunger) refers to populations that are in IPC phase 3 or higher. Populations classified in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) need urgent action to save lives, reduce food consumption gaps and protect livelihoods. In Phase 3, families may resort to less preferred or less nutritious food or may skip meals or sell productive assets to put food on the table; in Phase 4, they may resort to more extreme strategies such as selling the last animal that provided them with a means of livelihood or begging.

For hi-res photographs click here
For WFP’s 2020 Annual Country Report for DRC click here

KINSHASA– Reaffirming the United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) commitment to build stronger communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme, David Beasley, today, concluded a visit to the country which included a meeting with the country’s new President, Félix Tshisekedi.

“Conflict, displacement and disease have taken a devastating toll on the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, pushing millions into hunger and desperation. But the U.N. World Food Programme’s food assistance is providing a lifeline to many of these people, preventing them from being overwhelmed by starvation and famine,” said Beasley.

“We urgently need more funding to continue this vital work. Our development programs – which include building dams and helping smallholder farmers become more productive – are also supporting communities to provide for themselves today, while laying the foundations for peace tomorrow.”

Beasley met senior Congolese officials including the President and assured them of the U.N. World Food Programme’s full support to the country including in its Presidency of the African Union – focusing on the importance of home grown school feeding programs. He also urged continued humanitarian access to deliver assistance to those struggling to secure food.

In terms of absolute numbers, the DRC has more people living in hunger than any other country in the world – a staggering 19.6 million, of which nearly 5 million are in ‘Emergency’ (IPC phase 4) on the brink of starvation. Conflict remains the key driver of hunger with large swathes of the eastern provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika, as well as the central region of the Kasais worst affected.

DRC is also home to more than five million internally displaced people – the largest number in Africa – who have fled violence, leaving behind homes and livelihoods, and are scrambling to put food on their table.  In addition, more than half a million refugees from neighboring countries have found refuge in the DRC, putting additional pressure on already scarce resources available to the locals.

Despite widespread insecurity, continued displacement and access constraints, the U.N. World Food Programme provided lifesaving food and nutrition assistance to 6.9 million people in 2020. In 2021, the U.N. World Food Programme aims to extend operations to reach 8.7 million vulnerable people in the DRC.

The U.N. World Food Programme’s resilience building activities have been scaled up and now reach more than half a million people in five provinces. A joint U.N. World Food Programme-UNICEF social safety net program, soon to be launched in N’sele Commune in Kinshasa, will provide 100,000 of the most vulnerable people with mobile money transfers that cover their basic needs. This is the U.N. World Food Programme’s first program to reach urban communities in the DRC.

U.N. World Food Programme needs $662.5 million in 2021 to prevent millions of people most at risk from plunging deeper into hunger.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA @wfp_media @WFPDRC @WFP_FR

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