Roughly 27.3 million people need food aid in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and 7 million people face severe malnutrition unless they get immediate help, according to a new analysis by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The country’s “staggering” levels of food insecurity make it the most urgent hunger crisis in the world. Both FAO and WFP are rapidly scaling up their interventions throughout the DRC to prevent the situation from further deteriorating.
“For the first time ever we were able to analyse 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,” said Peter Musoko, WFP’s DRC representative.
“This country should be able to feed its population and export a surplus,” he said. “We cannot have children going to bed hungry and families skipping meals for an entire day.”
An estimated 1 in 3 people in the DRC are getting so little food that it constitutes a humanitarian emergency. WFP and FAO report that the root causes of the crisis are multifaceted.
Ongoing conflict has displaced and devastated populations in the central Kasais region, as well as the provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu, and Tanganyika. The conflict has also disrupted the economy and suppressed food production.
The fractured state of the economy has contributed to widespread poverty, with an estimated 73% of people in the DRC living on less than $1.90 a day.
The COVID-19 crisis has compounded the country’s economic woes, causing its economic growth rate to plummet and government revenue to decline as well, the World Bank reports. At the same time, government debt has climbed, which has impeded the country’s ability to finance a recovery effort.
The hunger crisis is inseparable from the broader crisis of poverty. Prior to COVID-19, roughly 43% of children were malnourished. Malnourishment happens when children receive so little nutrition their bodies can no longer function properly. Long-term malnutrition can lead to lifelong development consequences.
FAO and WFP report that certain demographics are disproportionately affected by the hunger crisis, including those who have been displaced from their homes, women-led households, and children.
The UN reports that many families are surviving on leaves boiled in water, while many farmers have had their homes burned down and crops stolen. Many of the people most affected are too poor to buy food in markets.
Addressing this crisis includes several factors.
FAO is providing communities with seeds, tools, and pest management to bolster agricultural and livestock production, while also improving local food systems, and directly giving cash to people. As the harvest season approaches, it’s important for farmers to be able to generate maximum yields, the FAO said.
WFP, meanwhile, is providing “life-saving food to 8.7 million people,” with a particular focus on 3.3 million children who are at risk of malnutrition.
The UN overall is working to promote peace in the country so that communities can overcome chronic instability and begin to thrive.
Disclosure: The World Food Programme is a funding partner of Global Citizen.