WFP warns relief efforts hampered by spreading violence in eastern DRC, food supplies running out

Published on 09 July 2007

WFP has expressed alarm at an upsurge in fighting in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that is hampering efforts to deliver food assistance to tens of thousands of people driven from their homes.

WFP has expressed alarm at an upsurge in fighting in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that is hampering efforts to deliver food assistance to tens of thousands of people driven from their homes.

At the same time, a shortage of funds is aggravating the situation, with supplies of WFP food assistance fast running

The fighting is uprooting more people every day and making it ever harder for WFP to reach them with the assistance they urgently need.
WFP Deputy Country Director Claude Jibidar

out.

“This is a real and worsening crisis,” said WFP Deputy Country Director Claude Jibidar. “The fighting is uprooting more people every day and making it ever harder for WFP to reach them with the assistance they urgently need. We need at least US$12 million to buy more food in the region and move it in fast.”

Tens of thousands displaced

New arrivals streaming into camps for the displaced near Goma in eastern DRC are being registered for emergency food rations, amid reports that 40,000 people have fled the violence in recent days, in addition to 200,000 people displaced in the region since December.

Thousands of people have moved towards Goma from the town of Sake, where entire families have fled fighting. Most of them had no time to collect any belongings or food from their homes.

Fighting is restricting humanitarian access and food deliveries to areas beyond Goma. Roads are unsafe, and on Wednesday a UN helicopter airlifting WFP food to Masisi District had to turn back because of the conflict.

Fierce fighting

Masisi has been the scene of fierce fighting that has forced several thousand people to flee their homes. The helicopter from the UN mission in DRC, MONUC, was loaded with WFP maize flour, peas, cooking oil, corn-soya blend and sugar for malnourished children, their mothers, and wounded victims of the fighting in a hospital feeding centre.

Recent nutrition assessments by WFP partners in some of the worst affected areas, including Masisi, have uncovered a worrying increase in malnutrition, with rates of acute malnutrition reaching 17 percent – beyond the emergency threshold – in some cases.

Most of the longer-term displaced have missed at least one harvest and are now almost completely dependent on WFP assistance.

"Life-saving support"

“WFP has moved rapidly to provide life-saving support to civilians caught up in the latest fighting,” said Jibidar.

“Our supplies in the East are running alarmingly low, but this operation is an absolute and immediate priority. The people of North Kivu have already suffered far too much.”

The mounting insecurity is restricting the movement of WFP staff who have been forced to concentrate on areas they can reach, in particular camps for the displaced around Goma city.

In Mugungu camp, near Goma, WFP is registering new arrivals, working together with its partners Solidarites and CARITAS. WFP will distribute a one-week emergency food ration to new arrivals in the coming days.

Increased needs

A tripling in needs over the past year in eastern DRC has restricted WFP to the point that it is currently able to provide only half rations to 334,000 mostly displaced people across the eastern part of the country, which has been torn apart by conflict between government forces, militias and rebel groups.

Even after using recent contributions to organise food loans from neighbouring WFP offices in the region to cover the increased needs, the operation in DRC is still facing breaks in food supplies.

WFP urgently requires the additional US$12 million for immediate regional purchase and further borrowings from neighbouring WFP operations in order to provide full rations to the needy, mostly in the East, until the end of the year.