The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that a major funding gap is forcing the agency to scale back geographical coverage of its work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and to instead focus on what it describes as "acutely-insecure, conflict-affected areas" in the vast country.
Speaking to the press in Geneva, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs warned that the agency's work in the DRC is being hindered by "severe funding constraints" and as a result it will begin to cut rations to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country's eastern North Kivu province, and to scale back some other operations.
She said WFP had announced last year that it was aiming to reach 4.2 million food-insecure people across the DRC between July 2013 and December 2015, but the shortage of funds had already caused reductions in rations and a scaling back of some operations during recent months.
In December 2013, WFP assisted 1.5 million food-insecure people in the DRC, including IDPs, refugees, children and women.
Yet the agency estimates that some 11 per cent of the rural population in the DRC is food-insecure. As such, Ms. Byrs said, WFP needs 15,000 tons of food for the next six months, but will be unable to provide that food without the actual funding.
WFP urgently requires $48.5 million for its operations to assist hundreds of thousands of conflict-affected and food-insecure people through August, she said, adding that so far, the agency has only received $8 million - about 4 per cent - of what it required.
She stressed that the situation in Katanga province was deteriorating and underlined that WFP was "extremely preoccupied" by the arrival of refugees from strife-torn Central African Republic (CAR). The agency was also very concerned about chronic malnutrition, which affects more than 43 per cent of the children in the DRC.