See also:
» 10.03.2010 - Guinea pigs to help ease DRC food crisis - scientists
» 16.04.2009 - Funding to help get back conflict hit communities to farming
» 21.11.2008 - Caritas launches US$4 million appeal for DRC
» 10.10.2008 - DRC rural communities receive farming grant
» 14.08.2008 - ICRC doubles humanitarian efforts in Congo
» 14.03.2008 - Makeba meets rape survivors
» 19.10.2007 - Malnutrition, cholera bite DRC's war-ravaged community
» 17.10.2006 - Concern over humanitarian crisis in Congo

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Congo Kinshasa
Agriculture - Nutrition | Society

UN airdropping food into Congo's Katanga province

afrol News, 7 April - In its first food airdrops outside Sudan in eight years, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) is facing what it calls "a logistical nightmare" in Congo Kinshasa (DRC) as it seeks to aid up to 200,000 people uprooted by fighting in the violence-wracked south-eastern province of Katanga. Heavy rains have cut normal transport modes.

The airdrops from an Antonov-12 aircraft for camps near the town of Dubie started on Wednesday and are the first ever into Congo Kinshasa, where WFP usually transports food by trucks and airlifts. But rains have made it especially difficult to move in by road enough food to Dubie, where malnutrition rates are increasingly alarming. Especially internally displaced people living in camps are affected by the far-ranging food deficit in Katanga.

"People are trapped in these camps and our access to them is very difficult because of fighting and very poor roads," WFP Country Director Felix Bamezon said in a statement today. "These airdrops allow us to preposition food for distribution rather than risk long delays bringing food in by road."

Some 38 metric tonnes of cereals were dropped on Dubie airstrip, 500 kilometres north of Lubumbashi, the capital of mineral-rich Katanga. In all, 80 tonnes will be dropped for distribution by a local non-governmental organisation to 13,000 internally displaced people. A recent nutritional survey by the Paris-based humanitarian group Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) described the malnutrition rates in three camps as "staggering".

"We have long been calling attention to the deteriorating situation in Katanga," Mr Bamezon said. "Over the next three months, WFP plans to assist as many as possible of the estimated 220,000 internally displaced persons in the province, but reaching them depends on safe access, security and sufficient resources."

Over the next few weeks, 200 tonnes of food, including cereals and corn-soya blend, which is especially beneficial for malnourished children and mothers, will be airdropped. Malnutrition and mortality rates are above emergency levels in Katanga, exacerbated by recent offensives against militia groups.

Since a WFP convoy came under attack last year, transport costs have more than doubled because of insecurity. The dreadful road conditions in southern Congo Kinshasa following the rains and a lack of vehicles also hamper transport. In one example, food took nearly a month to arrive by road in Dubie. After Dubie, the airdrop operation moves to Mitwaba, WFP informs. Here, the food will be immediately distributed, and to Sampwe.

In addition to facing severe security and logistical obstacles, WFP's operations in the vast country were said to be "grossly under-funded". With three months left of its two-and-a-half year relief and recovery operation in the country, it complains at a "critical shortfall" of 36 percent, or US$ 69 million, of the total US$ 191 million required to help up to 1.6 million internally displaced and other vulnerable people.

"It is very hard to raise sufficient funds for our operations in the DRC, which is one of the most difficult environments in the world for humanitarian agencies to operate in because of its size, continued insecurity in the east and a critical lack of even basic infrastructure," Mr Bamezon said.

The UN's food agency has had to turn to costly air drops of relief food in several occasions, where war-ravaged Sudan has dominated. Last year WFP airdropped 150,000 tonnes of food into south Sudan and the strife-torn western Darfur region.

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