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Displaced and Desperate in DRC

The latest mass displacement of civilians in DRC is taking place in a remote area of Orientale province near the border with Uganda. As many as 200,000 have been driven from their homes by fighting. WFP is reaching many of them with food assistance but lack of funding means there are not enough stocks to provide for all. 

Androsi Dive (20) sits in her makeshift straw shelter, stirring a pot over a fire. The smoke is thick enough to make the eyes water but she seems lost in her task. Beside her are her three children, the eldest of whom is five years of age.

“We left our village because of the war”, she explains once outside the hut. “My husband was killed by a bullet.”

That happened in October, a couple of months after violent fighting erupted in the South Irumu region of Orientale province near the DRC’s border with Uganda. The young mother says very little – probably due to a mixture of shyness and shock. The war to which she refers is the conflict that erupted towards the end of August between Government forces (FARDC) and rebels from the Front for the Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI).

Hot morning sun 

She fled with her children to Lagabo where, along with thousands of others, she is encamped on the edge of the village. In all, it is estimated by the UN that some 200,000 people have been displaced by clashes in Ituri district in recent months. 

“We don’t really have enough to eat and our health isn’t very good,” says Androsi. “Maybe things would be better if I could get a little work.”

Earlier in the day, she attended a distribution of food by the UN World Food Programme. It took place on open ground that usually serves as the village market place. Like the others who lined up under the hot morning sun, she received maize meal, split peas, vegetable oil and salt. 

Shortage of stocks

The maize and peas were unloaded from two trucks in bags clearly marked USAID that were opened by members of WFP’s local partner organisation and distributed according to family size. Because of WFP’s shortage of stocks, however, it was only possible to distribute a three-day ration of maize meal and a one-week ration of the other commodities. 

WFP needs US$ 75 million to see it through to May 2014 in DRC. Already, it has been forced to reduce rations for displaced beneficiaries across eastern DRC and, with stocks in its warehouses running critically low, will be obliged to make further reductions or totally suspend activities in some areas over coming weeks and months. School meals and supplementary feeding operations are also under threat though every effort is being made to ensure that the most vulnerable will not be affected. 

The United States has been very generous with a $30 million dollar donation to WFP’s activities in DRC announced in October 2013.