afrol News, 14 August - Continuing its emergency response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Congo Kinshasa (DRC), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) yesterday announced that it has begun feeding 40,000 previously inaccessible people in government-held areas.
The new food delivery in Katanga province - an area roughly the size of France - signals WFP's effort to step up aid to the mounting numbers of war victims in isolated and volatile parts of the country.
- The number of men, women and children living hand-to-mouth and without life's basic necessities is overwhelming, said WFP's acting Country Director, Jose Pita-Gros, estimating that more than 50 per cent of Katanga's 300,000 displaced people are in urgent need of food aid.
With the security situation in areas bordering the frontline stabilizing, WFP is now able to deliver food for the first time in more than a year to displaced people in the towns of Kabongo and Kitenge, where malnutrition rates are estimated at 28 per cent among young children. Some 1,500 children under five are suffering from global acute malnutrition, with a high prevalence of 'kwashiokor' - a life-threatening disease cause by an extreme lack of protein.
- We are extremely concerned about the Congolese children, who are bearing the brunt of this war, said Mr. Pita-Gros, pledging that the agency, while providing food aid to all displaced people, "will pay special attention to mothers and children, who are always the first to suffer."
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced today that the first "peace boat" had arrived in Mongalu, in the DRC's Equateur Province.
The boat, which docked on Sunday after a 12-day trip from Kinshasa, is carrying 650 tonnes of medical, educational and other relief supplies. In Mongalu, it is expected to load 1,000 tons of maize for distribution to vulnerable groups in Kinshasa.
The peace boat programme is a new UN initiative aimed at connecting communities separated by the frontlines, re-invigorating economic life and providing humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Claude Jibidar, WFP Coordinator for Eastern DRC, already in May warned about a humanitarian crisis in Katanga Province. "We estimate that tens of thousands of people who have been repeatedly displaced by insecurity or have been trapped deep in the bush by armed militias, are extremely hungry and malnourished, while hundreds of thousands more are need of food aid," Jibidar thus said.
Jibidar had travelled to the rebel-held town of Manono and seen throngs of mothers and children, extremely emaciated or bloated from malnutrition and wearing only shreds of clothes. They were congregated on the town’s hospital grounds, anxiously awaiting much-needed relief food. Roughly 23 percent of children under five of Manono’s 25,000 population are malnourished, and 19 percent severely so.
The food situation for thousands more people in North and South Kivu, such as Shabunda, Lulingu and Kasika remains precarious and urgent assistance is needed, pending safe access. People are reported to be hiding in the forests, from where some slowly emerge, malnourished and almost naked.
WFP’s assistance to Katanga dates back to January 2000, with support to feeding centers run by ACF (Action Contre la Faim) in towns like Moba, and food security programs with FHI (Food for the Hungry). A lack of logistics capacity such as aircraft, and continuous insecurity has prevented assistance from being sent further inland.
Sources: Based on the WFP
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