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Hunger Crisis Looms As Families Flee Fighting In Eastern Congo

Congolese families on the road from Goma to Bukavu in North Kivu, the centre of the recent upsurge of fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

(Copyright: AFP/Tony Karumba)

An upsurge of fighting in Eastern Congo has forced thousands of families to flee their homes, leaving them with little access to food. WFP, which was already feeding nearly half a million displaced people in the North Kivu province, is responding to the new needs with food distributions in and around the city of Goma.

ROME –  WFP is in the process of distributing emergency rations to some 160,000 people who have taken refuge in and around Goma after the recent wave of fighting in the North Kivu province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Many of the families fled to the provincial capital from camps for the displaced, including Kanyaruchinya, 10 kilometers north of Goma, and Sake, west of the city. They are receiving emergency food rations consisting of maize meal, pulses, salt and cooking oil, contributed by Canada, Japan and the United States of America. A consignment of High Energy Biscuits, a light and energy-packed emergency food requiring no preparation, is on its way. See photo gallery

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This woman, recently displaced by fighting, has just received WFP food vouchers. See photo gallery

WFP is extremely concerned about tens of thousands of people in Eastern Congo who have fled this new wave of fighting and who have little access to food and other basic necessities.

“The spiral of violence in North Kivu has cut many people off from their regular food supplies and they need emergency assistance to survive,” said Martin Ohlsen WFP Country Director in DRC.

Until recently, WFP was distributing food to around 470,000 displaced people in North Kivu. But when unrest spread to Goma in late November, it was forced to suspend operations temporarily. WFP continues to provide assistance to 212,000 displaced people in the South Kivu province.

The agency expects to resume the planned food distributions in accessible areas of North Kivu as soon as possible,  although the precarious security situation may make it difficult for WFP to reach those needing assistance beyond the provincial capital.   

“We urgently call on those involved in the ongoing conflict to respect the neutrality of aid workers and ensure that humanitarian agencies have access to those in need,” Ohlsen said.

WFP needs more funding to respond to this latest crisis, and is calling on the international community to further support its work in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Even before the developments of this week, WFP faced a funding shortfall of $23 million for the next six months of its emergency operations in eastern DRC, where more than one million people have been receiving WFP food assistance in five eastern provinces.  The new unrest will increase humanitarian needs.

Altogether, some 2.4 million people are displaced in eastern DRC, according to the October reports of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).