For humanitarian agencies trying to keep people alive, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) presents multiple challenges: hunger, displacement, disease and violence.
Nowhere in the world do more people need food assistance, according to a new study by two UN agencies.
More than 27 million people in the DRC – one in three of the population - are affected by what the agencies call “high acute food insecurity.” That’s up from 13 million in 2018.
Seven million people are now struggling to survive “emergency levels” of food insecurity, according to the analysis by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
That means they rely on aid for more than half their food needs.
The WFP says it is already providing life-saving food aid to 8.7 million people in DRC.
“For the first time ever we were able to analyze the vast majority of the population, and this has helped us to come closer to the true picture of the staggering scale of food insecurity in the DRC,” says Peter Musoko, WFP’s representative in DRC.
Conflict is a key driver of this food insecurity in DRC, especially in the east of the country and in the central region of Kasais.
Aristide Ongone Obame, the FAO’s representative in the country, says that “the recurring conflicts in eastern DRC and the suffering they bring remain of great concern.”
There are more than 40 armed groups in DRC. Insecurity is especially high in parts of North Kivu province where a group calling itself the Allied Democratic Forces – which is affiliated with the Islamic State - launches frequent attacks on villages. Part of the province has emergency levels of food insecurity.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the spread of diseases such as measles have worsened the plight of Congolese.
Earlier this month, the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres reported more than 13,000 cases of measles since the beginning of the year.
Cholera and malaria are also widespread, and there have been further outbreaks of ebola.
The pandemic has also affected DRC’s economy and the government has reduced its 2021 budget by 38%.
In the face of these challenges, aid agencies are trying to provide emergency assistance and longer-term help.
The FAO says its priority this year is to improve farmers’ access to tools and seeds; provide livestock and better storage for crops and help combat animal and plant diseases.