26 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Hunger Crisis Looms As Families Flee Fighting in Eastern Congo

The UN's peacekeeping mission in DR Congo is its largest and most expensive. But critics say the thousands of UN troops did nothing to stop M23 ... ( Resource: United Nations' Presence in DR Congo Criticised

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, has begun responding to the new needs with food distributions in the city of Goma.

WFP distributed emergency food rations over the weekend to roughly 81,000 displaced people who have taken refuge in and around Goma, the capital of the conflict-affected North Kivu province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Most of the families assisted fled in recent days to the provincial capital from camps for the displaced, including Kanyaruchinya, 10 kilometers north of Goma, and Sake, west of the city. They received emergency food rations consisting of maize meal, pulses, salt and cooking oil, contributed by Canada, Japan and the United States of America.

WFP is concerned about the fate of tens of thousands of people in Eastern Congo who have fled a new wave of fighting and who have little access to food and other basic necessities. It estimates that some 140,000 civilians in Goma alone may require WFP food assistance.

"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.

Access to needy

Until last week, WFP was distributing food to around 470,000 displaced people in North Kivu. But when unrest spread to Goma last week, it was forced to suspend operations temporarily.

The agency restarted food distributions in Goma within days and expects to resume 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 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 urgently 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 (DRC).

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).

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