The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is ramping up an already sizeable relief operation for conflict-displaced people in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following renewed inter-ethnic violence that has forced tens of thousands more from their homes.
In Ebola-afflicted Ituri province, where a resurgence of clashes between ethnic groups has claimed at least 160 lives in recent weeks, WFP intends to triple, to 300,000, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) it supports with life-saving food and cash.
“Our hearts go out to the latest victims of this senseless cruelty, most of them rural villagers who have had to run for their lives, with little or nothing, right at harvest time”, said Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative in DRC. “Our ongoing relief operation in Ituri, where we have been assisting 116,000 IDPs each month, means we are ready and able to quickly scale up.”
Many of the newly-displaced are malnourished and have been forced to move numerous times. Widely dispersed, they are seeking security in urban centres and in the bush.
The crisis is compounded by the fact that Ituri is one of two DRC provinces in the grip of the country’s worst ever Ebola outbreak, which to date has claimed more than 1,400 lives. WFP helps contain the spread of the virus by providing food assistance to those who have contracted the disease and to “contacts”, thereby limiting risky population movements.
Recent assessments show that hunger is worsening in Ituri, especially in areas that have suffered inter-ethnic conflict in recent years.