Eastern Congo: Air Drops Begin After Rains Cut Off Hungry

WFP has started air dropping food into Dungu in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to reach more than 130,000 displaced people and their host families who have been cut off by heavy seasonal rains.

KINSHASA -- “This is the only option left to us,” said Abdou Dieng, WFP Country Director for DRC, after the air drops started last weekend. “We have ferried in as much as we could by plane and truck, but the rainy season has made landing planes almost impossible at times and road conditions are extremely difficult. We have to be sure people get the life-saving food they need.”

WFP started emergency operations in Haut-Uele last November to assist people displaced by attacks from the Ugandan rebel group Lords' Resistance Army (LRA) and now plans to drop over 1,000 metric tons of food to feed 94,000 people in May.

Bad roads

Insecurity and poor road conditions make it very difficult to deliver food into north-eastern DRC. A humanitarian inter-agency convoy, coordinated by WFP, with seven trucks loaded with food and four trucks of other relief assistance left Beni in North Kivu on April 24th but has still not arrived in Dungu.

As the lead United Nations agency for logistics in Eastern DRC, WFP also delivers vital humanitarian supplies such as medicines for other organizations, and helps to repair infrastructure such as roads, railways and bridges.

A combination of airlifts and airdrops will continue for the next two months throughout the rainy season. Air dropping involves sliding bags out the rear door of an aircraft so that they fall into a cordoned-off ‘drop zone’ where specialized teams wait to carry out distributions.

Risk of malnutrition

Attacks from the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) have slightly declined recently but remain a daily concern across Orientale province. LRA rebels burn villages, kill or abduct civilians or force them to flee their homes. Many abandoned their homes with little or nothing at all and are completely dependent on outside assistance. Without continued assistance from WFP, many will be at risk of malnutrition and disease.

To date, WFP has reached about 143,000 displaced people and host families in Haut-Uele but only with two-week rations. “We delivered as much as we could, given the extremely difficult road access. These airdrops will allow us to continue these vital distributions,” said Dieng.

WFP plans to feed three million people in DRC in 2009 and still needs US$85.9 million until the end of the year, as well as US$16.8 million for the emergency response in Haut-Uele, and US$2.1 million for humanitarian air service.