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WFP Food Brings Lifeline to Thousands Fleeing Unrest in Eastern DRC

Thousands of people on the move across eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are surviving on food assistance as they wait for the conflict to end so that they can return home. Copyright: WFP/Djaounsede Pardon

In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, thousands of people are on the move, balancing their belongings on their heads or on chukudus, the local wooden scooters. They pack the roads of North and South Kivu, fleeing the newest wave of violence spreading across the region. WFP is working around the clock to ensure the most destitute have enough to eat.

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo – Just before insurgents gained control of North Kivu’s provincial capital last week, Mujinya Kobua fled here from a camp for displaced people just 10 kilometres away. Now, she and her 10 children count among nearly 11,000 tired and hungry Congolese packed in Don Bosco, a Catholic institution in Goma that now serves as a makeshift refuge from the fighting that is raging in eastern DRC. 

“We rushed out of the Kanyaruchinya camp on Monday morning when the battle front moved from Kibumba down to Goma”, said Mujinya last week, naming another North Kivu town.  “We have been sheltering here in Don Bosco centre with next to no potable water, nothing to eat and nowhere to lay one’s head.”

That changed a few hours later, when Mujinya and her family received WFP food rations to tide them over for the next few days as they decide whether to stay put in Goma, move on to somewhere else, or try to return home. 

Operations resumed

On Friday 23 November, WFP resumed its operations in Goma, providing emergency food assistance to more than 81,000 people in a dozen sites in and around the city. 

They include people already displaced like Mujinya, who fled the Kanyaruchinya camp as rebels advanced southwards towards Goma from Rutshuru territory. Many have joined host families; others have sought shelter in places like Don Bosco.  

Still others have since left Goma to return to their villages in Rutshuru. 

“They had left their home some months ago when Rutshuru territory was under a wave of violence. They came to Goma with basically nothing and have left their fields unattended, most of them will therefore need food assistance back in their home town”, explained Martin Ohlsen, WFP DRC country director. 

“Food assistance is crucial as the displaced people have absolutely no means to access food. Their situation is even harder as food prices are increasing dramatically on the local market”, added Mr Ohlsen.

Deteriorating situation

With some 140,000 newly displaced people in the Goma area, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated rapidly.   Electricity supplies have been cut off, leading to an interruption in clean water supplies.

Thousands of Congolese are also fleeing the Masisi area, further south, and Kalehe, in South Kivu. But the volatile security situation is limiting efforts by WFP and other agencies to rapidly assess and respond to this humanitarian crisis. 

Despite the tense situation in eastern DRC, WFP staff remains on duty, ready to assist as quickly as possible. WFP has maintained its assistance programmes in South Kivu and is about to resume operations in Bunia, in neighbouring Orientale province, where angry protestors recently plundered WFP offices and looted stocks form the warehouse and of our trucks. .

Since January 2012, WFP has delivered food assistance to nearly one million people in five provinces of eastern DRC, including the two Kivus, as part of its emergency operations.