Since the beginning of 2012, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been plagued by a new wave of violence and a dramatic increase of internally displaced people in its five eastern provinces. Close to one million people have received food assistance in this region during the year, and there is urgent need for more.
As of the end of 2011, DRC stood at the bottom of two major indices of well-being: the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index and the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Hunger Index. About 70 percent of Congolese lack access to adequate food, while one in four children is malnourished.
Conflict and displacement have compounded an already precarious food and nutrition security situation.
According to a October 2012 WFP/FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) food security survey, 6,3 million people required humanitarian assistance in the DRC.Out of this total, an estimated three million were located in the five conflict-affected provinces of Orientale, North and South Kivu, Katanga and Maniema, in the eastern part of the country.
Moreover, this report indicated that the overall food security situation was deteriorating in these provinces. Rapid assessments conducted in areas affected by conflict indicate high rates of food insecurity, especially amongst displaced people, whose livelihoods have been significantly disrupted. Most critically for the medium term, the recent surge in violence coincided with both the harvest and subsequent planting seasons.
Widespread malnutrition is also a serious concern. Indeed, a 2010 UNICEF survey depicted an alarming nutrition situation, with global acute malnutrition rates exceeding the World Health Organization’s intervention threshold in six out of eleven provinces of DRC. A recent nutrition survey and data gathered in conflict-affected areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga and Maniema provinces are even more worrying, revealing GAM rates that exceed the emergency threshold of 15 percent.
Similar rates were also reported in surveys carried out in the remote territories of Kasaï Oriental, Kasaï Occidental, Bandundu, and Equateur Provinces.
A mix of factors explain these soaring rates, including population displacements associated with insecurity, lack of access to basic social services such as water and health services, low agricultural productivity, a lack of good roads and chronic poverty.
In the eastern regions, civilians have been forced to flee from place to place, desperately trying to escape various armed groups. This has disrupted their normal harvesting activities.
A new rebel insurgency in North Kivu and increased activities by other armed groups in most of the eastern part of the country during the last quarter of 2012 have dramatically deepened food insecurity. Even when they are not displaced, people are afraid to go to their fields or fish ponds or to sell their goods at local markets.
Food prices are on the rise almost everywhere, even in the western provinces and the capital Kinshasa.
Some 2.4 million people were displaced as of mid-2012, mostly in North and South Kivu provinces, according to OCHA (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). North Katanga has also witnessed large-scale displacements of around 200,000 people, since the rise of a new militia group at the end 2011.
The western part of the country is also quite unstable, with political tensions and inter-ethnic conflicts flaring mostly over land disputes. People are living in extreme poverty with very little support from the state.
Basic needs, especially in health and education, are far from being met. Especially in rural areas, conflict has destroyed hospitals and clinics, and many people live far from health services. The spread of HIV/AIDS remains a threat, particularly for displaced persons, who lack protection and sufficient information about how the virus is transmitted.
In 2012, several pandemics hit the country, even in urban areas, including Ebola, cholera and measles outbreaks.