WFP Launches Air Operation to Reach Thousands of Stranded Congolese

Published on 08 December 2008

Kampala, 8 December 2008 - WFP today launched an air operation to deliver urgently required humanitarian supplies into the northeastern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where thousands of people have been terrorised by one of Africa’s most notorious rebel groups.

“The suffering in Dungu has been overlooked as events further south in Goma and North Kivu have taken centre stage in recent weeks,” said WFP Regional Director for East, Central and Southern Africa Mustapha Darboe. “Many thousands have been displaced, and are living in fear of their children being abducted. Their situation could hardly be any worse.”

Flying in food and emergency equipment

WFP is flying in food and emergency equipment into Dungu, a town in DRC’s Orientale province, where for several months civilians have been the target of attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA has wreaked havoc in northern Uganda and southern Sudan for many years, and has more recently targeted towns and villages in the DRC.

At least 70,000 people are believed to be in need of assistance in an area almost completely cut off by insecurity along the few existing roads, most of which are currently impassable as a result of heavy seasonal rains.

Airlifting also for UNICEF and WHO

Airlifting In the days ahead, WFP expects to complete at least 16 cargo flights carrying food assistance into Dungu from Uganda’s main airport at Entebbe. WFP will also airlift emergency kits donated by UNICEF, medical kits for the World Health Organisation, and about 10,000 litres of diesel fuel, as there are no supplies available in Dungu.

WFP has already established temporary storage facilities in Dungu, and flown in two all-terrain trucks to assist with the onward transportation of the supplies once they arrive at the local airstrip.

Also in Orientale province, food rations are being provided in the Bunia area to more than 185,000 people, many of whom have been displaced in the past few months following clashes between the Congolese army and a number of rebel groups in the region who have joined forces this year.

564,000 people assisted across Eastern Congo

Meanwhile, WFP continues to deliver assistance to those affected by the upsurge in fighting in North and South Kivu since late August. In November, WFP reached a total of 564,000 people across eastern Congo, 383,000 of whom were in the worst affected province of North Kivu. However, an estimated 70,000 in North Kivu remain beyond WFP’s reach as a result of fighting and appalling road conditions.

Across the border in Uganda - where refugees have been moving back and forth from eastern Congo - WFP is working to assist 17,000 Congolese who have crossed the border since August. An estimated 10,000 refugees entered Uganda in the last week of November alone.