The World Food Program has announced a tripling of food aid to the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province, in response to what the organization describes as the world’s second largest hunger crisis in the world, after Yemen.
While announcing the aid scale-up operation on Tuesday, WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel warned that “people are dying of hunger, or, malnutrition is such that they are dying”.
He added that even though there was no accurate data on the total number of deaths from hunger in Ituri, 13 million people are food insecure nationally, including five million acutely malnourished children.
In addition to hunger, communities in north-east DR Congo face a deadly Ebola outbreak and inter-ethnic clashes that claimed at least 117 lives between 10 and 13 June, according to UN statistics.
The clashes between Hema herders and Lendu farmers have forced people from their homes, disrupting food supply in the region.
“This senseless cruelty comes right at harvest time, where the newly displaced have had to flee their homes in rural villages with very little or nothing,” Verhoosel said.
He added that “many victims of this increase in violence are malnourished and have been forced to move numerous times…they are seeking security in urban centres and in the bush.”
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, inter-ethnic violence has led to the mass displacement of 300,000 people since June, while some 7,500 people have crossed into neighbouring Uganda from DR Congo, across Lake Albert.
Together with North Kivu province, people in Ituri are also living through the DR Congo’s worst recorded Ebola virus outbreak, which WFP is helping to contain by providing assistance to people infected by the often fatal disease and their families and friends, in a bid to prevent at-risk populations from making unnecessary journeys.
In its latest Ebola update, the UN and authorities reported that since the outbreak began on 1 August 2018, 2,338 people have been infected with Ebola, including 2,244 confirmed and 94 probable cases.
To respond to the Ebola outbreak, the UN food agency has appealed for $35 in million, and in total appealed for $155 million to help 5.2 million people across DR Congo for the next six months.