Geneva — The World Food Program reports a record 27.3 million people in Democratic Republic of the Congo are facing acute hunger and are in urgent need of food aid.
The latest U.N. report, which analyzes the severity of food emergencies worldwide, finds one-third of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's people are critically short of food.
The World Food Program, which provides life-saving food aid to nearly one-third of the more than 27 million hungry people, says this humanitarian disaster is largely man-made. It says conflict is a key cause of hunger in DRC, with the conflict-affected eastern provinces and the central region of the Kasais being the worst hit.
WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says other factors are compounding this crisis, one being the DRC's collapsing economy, which has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Behind these numbers are harrowing accounts of families that have been deprived of access to their land, or have been forced to flee for their lives, watching their children fall sick for lack of food. WFP staff have met families who have returned to their villages to find entire compounds completely destroyed and their crops looted, and the remains burnt," he said.
Phiri says many people are surviving by eating wild roots or casava leaves boiled in water. He says people most at risk of acute hunger are the 5.2 million internally displaced people, the largest number in Africa. He says some of the more than half million refugees in the country, mainly from the Central African Republic are particularly vulnerable.
Other at-risk populations, he says, include female-headed households, the urban poor and malnourished children.
"WFP needs notably to be able to continue its work in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition, which affects 3.3. million children. Malnutrition in early childhood affects children for the rest of their lives, impairing their ability to realize their full potential and to contribute in their communities," he said.
The World Food Program is appealing for $661 million to implement its life-saving program this year. The money, it says, will prevent millions of those most at risk from plunging deeper into hunger, despair, and possible death.