By Opija Raduk
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is increasing an already fairly large relief operation for the conflict-displaced people of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This follows renewed inter-ethnic violence that has forced thousands of Congolese to flee their homes.
In Ebola-afflicted Ituri province, where a resurgence of clashes between ethnic groups has claimed at least 160 lives in recent weeks, WFP intends to triple, to 300 000, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) it supports with lifesaving food and cash.
“Our hearts go out to the latest victims of this senseless cruelty, most of them rural villagers who have had to run for their lives, with little or nothing, right at harvest time,” says Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative in DRC.
“Our ongoing relief operation in Ituri, where we have been assisting 116 000 IDPs each month, means we are ready and able to quickly scale up.”
Many of the newly-displaced are malnourished and have been forced to move numerous times. Widely dispersed, they are seeking security in urban centres and in the bush.
According to WFP’s operational context, DRC is the world’s second largest hunger crisis after Yemen, with 13 million people living in acute food insecurity and five million children acutely malnourished. Hunger and conflict fuel one another in DRC, with armed conflict and widespread displacement prevailing in Eastern DRC for the past 25 years.
Secondly, multiple crises compound DRC’s humanitarian challenges. A tenth outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease was declared in August last year, so far claiming more than 700 lives in North Kivu and Ituri.
Furthermore, the expulsion of more than 402 000 Congolese from northern Angola is aggravating an already dangerous food security situation and the clashes between ethnic groups in Yumbi territory led to the killing of over 500 people and the displacement of thousands.
The crisis is compounded by the fact that Ituri is one of the two DRC provinces in the grip of the country’s worst ever Ebola outbreak, which to date has claimed more than 1 400 lives. WFP helps contain the spread of the virus by providing food assistance to those who have contracted the disease and to ‘contacts’, thereby limiting risky population movements.
After reaching 5.2 million beneficiaries through scaled-up emergency interventions last year, in 2019 WFP continues its emergency operations in North and South Kivu, Kasai, Kasai Central, Ituri and Tanganyika provinces, targeting 5.1 million people with lifesaving food and nutrition assistance.
WFP’s recent assessments show that hunger is worsening in Ituri, especially in areas that have suffered inter-ethnic conflict in recent years.
Its work in Ituri is generously supported by The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the United Kingdoms’ Department for International Development (DFID).
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