UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Two U.N. agencies warned Tuesday that over 27 million people in Congo are suffering from acute hunger, a record high representing almost one-third of the conflict-wracked African nation’s estimated population of 87 million.
The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program said those facing acute hunger include nearly 7 million people at the emergency level on the standardized IPC scale which analyzes the nature of a food security crisis.
The estimated 27.3 million Congolese need urgent action to save lives, reduce gaps in food availability, and protect livelihoods, the agencies said. At the IPC emergency level, at least 20 percent of households face extreme food consumption gaps, resulting in very high levels of acute malnutrition and excess deaths.
WFP’s representative in Congo, Peter Musoko, said: “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.” Those are the initials of the country’s official name, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to FAO and WFP, the Congolese most affected are the displaced, refugees, returnees, host families, those affected by floods, landslides, fires and other natural disasters and the poorest people in landlocked and urban and nearby areas.
The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on Congo after the end of back-to-back wars that destroyed much of the central African nation by 2002. Sporadic violence has continued to plague the vast nation’s mineral-rich eastern border region where local militias regularly clash with one another, as well as with Congolese army forces and perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The FAO and WFP said “conflict remains a key cause of hunger with large swathes of the conflict-affected eastern provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika, as well as the central region of the Kasais, the scene of recent conflict, the worst hit.” Other key factors include the slump in Congo’s economy and the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they said.
“We need to urgently focus on growing food where it is needed most, and on keeping people’s sustenance-giving animals alive,” the FAO’s Congo representative, Aristide Ongone Obame, said in a statement. “The main agricultural season is around the corner and there is no time to waste.”
Expressing great concern at the recurring conflicts in eastern Congo, he said, “social and political stability is essential to strengthen food security and boost the resilience of vulnerable populations.”
WFP said it is is providing food to 8.7 million people in Congo and FAO said it aims to assist 1.1 million people in areas of high acute food insecurity with assistance to farm and raise livestock.
WFP’s Musoko said Congo should be able to feed its people.
“We cannot have children going to bed hungry and families skipping meals for an entire day,” he said in a statement.