With widening violence, largescale displacement, poor harvests and endemic poverty nearly doubling the number of acutely food insecure people in DRC this year to 13.1 million, the World Food Programme (WFP) significantly expanded its operations, reaching a record 5 million, a twofold increase from 2017.
Building on a surge in food assistance that averted famine in Kasai and Kasai Central, the UN agency quickly scaled up its interventions in the troubled eastern provinces of Ituri, Tanganyika and North and South Kivu, where flaring conflicts forced many more people from their homes.
Assistance was provided in the form of commodities and cash, and specially fortified foods for the treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition, which affects 4.6 million children countrywide.
Improved funding* is allowing the restoration of full food rations to some WFP recipients who had had to make do with half the programmed quantities for many months.
“This has been a year of multiple crises and considerable suffering for millions of Congolese”, said WFP Country Director Claude Jibidar. “We are grateful to donors for their strong support during a period of record needs, and count on their continued backing during what will surely be a challenging 2019”.
Two deadly outbreaks of Ebola complicated DRC’s humanitarian landscape in 2018. The first, declared in May in north-western Equateur province, was extinguished within three months thanks to vigorous containment efforts by responders led by the Ministry of Health.
WFP food assistance for confirmed and suspected sufferers, discharged patients and their families, and “contacts” of victims helped limit risky population movements and was fundamental. The agency’s role as UN humanitarian logistics lead and the deployment of expert staff, aircraft and other assets also contributed significantly.
A subsequent outbreak, declared in August and now the second largest on record globally, has seen more than 540 reported cases in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, with 300 lives lost. Again, WFP has been central to the response, providing food assistance to 86,000 affected people as well as wide-ranging logistical support. This epidemic could spread elsewhere in DRC – and beyond – because access is hampered by rebel attacks, a highly mobile population and local communities’ fears about Ebola treatments.
Humanitarian response in DRC has been further complicated by the recent expulsion of some 380,000 of its nationals from northern Angola to the already severely food insecure Kasai region. WFP provides cash and nutrition products at border arrival points, and food rations for transiting and host families.
Meanwhile, resilience programming remains crucial to stabilisation, and WFP has continued this year to seek development and peace dividends from humanitarian investments.
This is the case in Tanganyika province, where support to smallholder farmers, many of them women, is helping thousands of families from the Bantu and Twa ethnic groups leave behind a history of mutual distrust and violent clashes that provoked displacement and disrupted food production.
*WFP is grateful to the following donors for their generous contributions to our work in DRC in 2018: Belgium, Canada, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.