UN agencies on Wednesday raised alarm over the growing food crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), calling for an urgent scaling-up of assistance.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that without help, widespread and unabated food insecurity could worsen in the coming months.
Some 27 million people, one-quarter of the country’s population, face crisis or emergency acute food insecurity conditions, fuelled by poor harvests, violence-driven displacement, disease and collapsing infrastructure, according to a newly published Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis for the central African nation.
“The food situation for many people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains desperate, with so many different obstacles.”
“Insecurity, disease, devastation and lack of infrastructure, low access to quality inputs and finance to name but a few ganging up against their chances of being able to properly feed themselves and their families,” said Aristide Ongone, FAO’s DRC Representative.
The number of Congolese in the crisis phase of acute food insecurity is higher than any other country analysed by the IPC.
The new IPC report, which shows even the capital Kinshasa is badly affected, forecasts the alarming hunger numbers are likely to remain unchanged through the first half of next year.
Indeed, the nutrition picture could even worsen in some regions and among particularly vulnerable groups, including young children and pregnant or nursing mothers.
“These numbers are a wake-up call for more action and to do things differently,” said WFP DRC Representative and Country Director, Peter Musoko.
“Right now, it feels like we’re bailing out a leaky boat. We need to get together with the Government, our partners and the private sector, to figure out how to give hope to the people of this country.”
DRC’s food crisis stems from a dangerous mix of factors, from violence and insecurity that have weakened agricultural production, to crumbling transport and communication links, along with multiple armed groups displacing millions – especially in the northeast, where insecurity is on the rise in two particular hotspots.
Even where food is available, high prices and falling incomes mean many people are unable to afford proper nutrition.
And COVID-19 has exacerbated the calamitous effects of natural disasters while measures to contain the pandemic have devastated the economy – plunging local currency and rendering millions out of work, including in the informal sector.
The supply of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, needs to be stepped up, according to the UN.
From the coronavirus fallout to insecurity, agricultural livelihoods have been hit hard, limiting farmers’ access to markets, shrinking production and decimating crops and livestock.
“The only way to break the cycle and shift these trends is to help them increase their resilience and productivity,” said Ongone.
To fast track an effective response to the scope, urgency and complexity of the crisis, FAO has scaled up its support to the most vulnerable.
While the UN agency needs a total of US$ 65 million to provide life-saving livelihood assistance to 1.1 million people in areas affected by high acute food insecurity, only US$ 4.5 million has currently been received.
FAO’s focus is on increasing households’ access to tools and seeds; providing livestock, which plays a key role in improving nutrition; supporting food processes and storage; and helping small farmers fight animal and plant diseases