afrol News, 12 December - Trains are once again running along the Kalemie railway in the eastern province of Katanga in Congo Kinshasa (DRC) after the successful completion of a food-for-work project by the World Food Programme (WFP).
In a ground-breaking project, local workers have cleared the rail line, which was overgrown and rusted after three years of neglect, in exchange for WFP food rations.
Running from Kalemie, WFP's operational hub in rebel-held Katanga in eastern DRC to Niemba in the west, the railway will allow the Agency to shift urgently-needed emergency food aid to therapeutic feeding centres in isolated communities where children are dying from severe malnutrition.
The majority of the estimated two million civilians who have died in DRC's three-year war have perished from disease and malnutrition. The collapse of DRC's transportation infrastructure has greatly exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, according to the WFP.
The Kalemie line will not just boost the humanitarian aid effort to reach towns and villages cut off by conflict. It will also kick-start DRC's reconstruction process.
- This will greatly enhance the resettlement of displaced populations and the resumption of commercial activities, said WFP in a statement.
Rich and fertile, Katanga was once the food basket of the Congo, delivering food to markets throughout the country. As a fragile cease-fire persists in DRC, the eventual reconstruction of roads and rail would help kick-start the fallen agricultural sector.
WFP has also prepared a special operation to help DRC's national railway company to rehabilitate the Niemba Bridge.
The project is expected to cost US$ 800.000, and in the long-run will help WFP deliver aid more efficiently, in greater volume and at a lesser cost.
Most food is however still transported in in more costly ways. WFP is currently in the second phase of an airlift to deliver food to towns on the edge of the frontline splitting Katanga between government and rebel forces.
The airlift is the only way to move food aid in the province, WFP says. With the help of the local population, food is carried across the Congo River, and loaded onto trucks waiting on the opposite bank before being transported to towns such as Kabalo and Kongolo.
Sources: Based on the WFP
and afrol archives