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DRC: Operational Update - 14 November 2008

Goma, 14 November 2008 - The latest from the WFP team in Goma, eastern DRC:

• WFP began a large scale food distribution on Friday to tens of thousands of people in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo towns of Rutshuru and Kiwanja. The distribution of food was the first to take place in these towns since fighting began in late October.

• The WFP convoy of 12 trucks loaded with 100 tons of food, encountered no problems on their journey on Friday morning from Goma, 75 kilometres south.

• 50,000 people have been registered to receive food, of whom 12,000 were due to receive rations on Friday. Registrations of the displaced and local residents sheltering them are ongoing and the number receiving food will rise as distributions progress.

• The convoy from Goma also carried non-food items donated by the Belgian government, including blankets, plastic buckets, clothes, jerry cans and plastic sheeting.

• Malnutrition rates among children under the age of five are above emergency levels in some parts of Rutshuru district. The entire population in the area has suffered because of the upsurge in fighting in recent weeks. Many people were unable to plant their fields for several successive seasons and prices of basic food items have risen sharply.

• The distributions, which started at the same time in Rutshuru stadium and the main church in Kiwanja, were carried out with WFP’s partner, CARITAS.

• WFP is delivering a 15-day family ration consisting of maize meal, peas, cooking oil and salt. This is a half ration, which is half the weight of a full month's ration and therefore easier to carry in the event that people are forced to move again by fighting.

• Friday's convoy was escorted by the UN peacekeeping force, MONUC. Insecurity remains the greatest obstacle to WFP's efforts to get food out to people. The frontline in the conflict between the Congolese army (FARDC) and Laurent Nkunda's rebels (CNDP) is only a few kilometres north of Goma on the main road to Rutshuru.