© WFP/Leonora Baumann
The second largest country in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ranked 5th of 178 countries on the 2019 Fragile States Index, placing it in the highest category of risk (“very high alert”). Hunger and conflict fuel one another, with armed conflict and widespread displacement prevailing for the past 25 years. Multiple other crises compound DRC’s humanitarian challenges.
Since 2016, the long running crisis in the east (Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces) aggravated and spilled over to previously stable regions, such as the Kasai and the Equateur, forcing some 4.8 million people to flee from their villages, losing their agricultural livelihoods and jobs. The number of food insecure people almost doubled from 7.7 million in 2017 to 13.1 million in 2018, making access to food a daily struggle for a significant part of the Congolese population. An estimated 5 million children are acutely malnourished. DRC is now the second largest hunger crisis in the world after Yemen. The 2016 Cost of Hunger in Africa study found that undernutrition costs the DRC 4.6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – equivalent to US$ 1.7 billion – every year. This includes loss in productivity, high health care costs for the treatment of malnutrition-related conditions and workforce reduction due to early deaths.
A new outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease was declared in August 2018, a crisis within the broader humanitarian crisis in DRC. The third outbreak in two years, and the second in 2018, it has claimed more than 1,400 lives in North Kivu and Ituri provinces so far and in June 2019 spilled over into Uganda. This is the worst outbreak in the country’s history and the second largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak globally. Fatal security incidents and community resistance to Ebola response remain among the key hurdles to ending the outbreak.
More than 800,000 Congolese nationals are refugees in neighboring countries and DRC, already struggling with its internal conflicts, hosts more than half a million refugees from Burundi, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
With 80 million hectares of arable land, DRC has the potential to feed 2 billion people. Only 10% of its arable land is cultivated and subsistence farming is prevalent in DRC, with families producing 42 percent of the food they consume. While needs remain focused on crisis response to vulnerable populations, the World Food Programme (WFP) and partners are shifting gradually to resilience-building activities where possible, leveraging DRC’s agricultural potential to enhance people’s self-reliance. Growing food is also a tool to advance recovery and peaceful co-existence between ethnic groups.
Present in the country since 1973, WFP collaborates with national actors and government institutions to enhance their capacities in disaster risk management and emergency preparedness. The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) and the provision of logistics services to the humanitarian community are also central to WFP’s portfolio in the DRC.
What WFP is doing in Congo DR
Crisis responseIn October 2017, WFP activated a corporate Level 3 Emergency covering the six most populous and conflict-affected provinces – North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Kasai, Kasai Central and Tanganyika. A significant scale-up of WFP activities was required to reverse the deepening hunger crisis and WFP’s strengthened field operations yielded substantial results by reaching 5.2 million Congolese beneficiaries in 2018 with lifesaving food and nutrition assistance. In 2019, WFP is targeting over 5 million people.
EbolaWFP helps reduce the propagation of the Ebola virus by providing food to Ebola patients and potentially affected people, and by providing crucial logistical services, including trucks and planes, which enable responders to reach new or remote outbreak areas quickly. WFP also launched a school feeding programme in the affected areas to address the needs of the population through a more holistic approach and build trust and positive engagement.
Resilience buildingWFP in partnership with FAO, UNHCR and UNICEF works with returnees, internally displaced persons, refugees and local communities to build assets that improve resilience to shocks, promote self-reliance and economic recovery. These joint programmes help smallholder farmers to improve production and trading capacities, provide trainings on agricultural techniques, literacy to promote women’s empowerment, construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure. Small-scale livelihood activities are also being developed with refugees from the Central African Republic and host communities.
NutritionIn order to treat and prevent malnutrition, WFP is providing specialized nutritious food to vulnerable people including children under 5, and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Targeted populations also receive tailored nutrition-focused communications.
School mealsWFP’s emergency school feeding programme provides meals in schools, mostly located in Ebola-affected and returning areas from the North Kivu province. The meals improve the nutrition of vulnerable students and increase school attendance, thereby reducing the risk of children being recruited by armed groups.
Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service provides aid workers, donors and diplomatic missions with safe, flexible, efficient, and cost-effective air transportation to 40 locations across a country the size of western Europe. UNHAS also enables access to Ebola-affected areas for the entire response community, with four aircrafts having been added to the fleet.
Humanitarian coordinationWFP leads the Logistics and Emergency Telecommunications (ETC) Clusters, which coordinate responses to ensure the efficient and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance for the entire humanitarian community in the DRC. WFP also co-leads the Food Security Cluster with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).