Kinshasa — In a stark warning, three UN agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) – say time is running out to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Farmers – who fled due to conflict - have missed three consecutive planting seasons. This has left people with almost nothing to eat. Food assistance is failing to fill the gap. Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced. Around 630,000 people have returned to their burned down villages after hiding in the forest, they must be helped to resume food production. Over ninety percent of rural communities depend entirely on agriculture.
"Agriculture is the only way to become productive again. Not only does it generate food and income for families, but it restores hope, dignity and self-reliance", said Alexis Bonte, FAO Representative ad interim in the DRC.
The nutritional status of children is particularly critical. "At least 400,000 children under five have severe, acute malnutrition," said UNICEF's Acting Representative in the DRC, Tajudeen Oyewale. "They are likely to die unless they urgently receive health, water, sanitation and nutrition support. Longer-term food security must be restored and feeding and care practices improved so that children can have access to the adequate quality food they need."
The UN and its partners are racing against time to feed the people of Kasai, fight malnutrition among its children and build resilience. But the odds are stacked against them: infrastructure is limited, security poor and the cash short.
"There are signs that donors are beginning to respond, but resources are woefully inadequate given to the scale of human suffering", said WFP's Country Director in DRC, Claude Jibidar. "The Congolese government and the international community must re-engage on all fronts to prevent a major famine in Kasai. Failure to do so, immediately and collectively, means many people will die."