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Beyond Historic Elections, One of the Worst Humanitarian Crises

Transition in DR Congo May Be Crucial

The Democratic Republic of Congo is emerging from a crucial period of political transition. The DRC is also emerging from a decade-long conflict which (directly and indirectly) killed more than four million Congolese and has caused the country’s complete ruin. The country has been ravaged and needs to be completely rebuilt.

Recent elections mark the beginning of a new challenge. In south Kivu and in Katanga, amongst others, the priority should be to curb the severe nutritional and humanitarian crisis but also to help the Congolese to re-establish the pillars of the local economy, such as agriculture and fishing. A short synopsis of a humanitarian crisis.

The DRC emerges bloodless from a 10 year conflict. Medical, transport, water and sanitation infrastructures - already in a poor condition – are completely ruined.

The question of refugees and displaced people

Hundreds of thousands of people who were displaced or forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries (Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda etc) are supposed to return to their places of origin in view of the current stability in the country. However, in South Kivu for example, populations returning since the start of 2006 are finding themselves in a situation of extreme vulnerability. Despite having access to land it is difficult to launch agricultural and fishing activities that could provide the population with food autonomy.

Agriculture and fishing: starting from zero again

Populations returning to their homes do not have anything. Action Against Hunger is distributing tools and seeds to farmers and pirogues and fishing tools to fishermen. The association is also helping people to improve production to ensure that everyone profits from food autonomy. The aim is to guarantee the communities’ autonomy in the long-term.

The whole population suffers from food insecurity due, amongst other things, to insufficient agricultural production. Agricultural techniques are archaic and the quasi mono-culture of the cassava crop is a severe problem in terms of food diversity. In addition to this, the recent outbreak of the mosaic virus, a disease that ravages cassava fields, is diminishing returns. This means that the Congolese are in a continuous state of lack of food in both quality and quantity.

Water and sanitation: a disastrous condition

The state of water and sanitation infrastructure is disastrous (often due to lack of funds and maintenance for many years). Severe peaks of cholera outbreaks still create many victims. The consumption of unsafe water and lack of access to sanitation also leads to diarrhoeal diseases that can result in malnutrition.

A very severe nutritional crisis

Lack of sanitation and access to water, the difficult agricultural and fishing revival and the mosaic virus are all factors that can bring about malnutrition. Despite a return to peace and security, Action Against Hunger teams confirm a continuing and very severe nutritional crisis. Depending on the agricultural season, extremely weak children (and adults) flock to Action Against Hunger’s Therapeutic Feeding Centres in South Kivu and Katanga. Society has lost its structure due to years of conflict and uncertainty. Malnutrition can also be caused by different cultural beliefs, infant feeding practices and problems with breastfeeding.

According to a report by the IRC, 1,200 people are still dying every day in the DRC as a result of the war and the severe humanitarian crisis. Beyond the results of this decisive election, if peace and security last, the Congolese have an immense task ahead of them. Action Against Hunger calls for the International community and donors to support the Congolese extensively.

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