UN food agency expands aid to war victims in DR of Congo

UN food agency expands aid to war victims in DR of Congo

Continuing its emergency response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it has begun feeding 40,000 previously inaccessible people in government-held areas.

The new food delivery in Katanga province - an area roughly the size of France - signals WFP's effort to step up aid to the mounting numbers of war victims in isolated and volatile parts of the country.

"The number of men, women and children living hand-to-mouth and without life's basic necessities is overwhelming," said WFP's acting Country Director, Jose Pita-Gros, estimating that more than 50 per cent of Katanga's 300,000 displaced people are in urgent need of food aid.

With the security situation in areas bordering the frontline stabilizing, WFP is now able to deliver food for the first time in more than a year to displaced people in the towns of Kabongo and Kitenge, where malnutrition rates are estimated at 28 per cent among young children. Some 1,500 children under five are suffering from global acute malnutrition, with a high prevalence of 'kwashiokor' - a life-threatening disease cause by an extreme lack of protein.

"We are extremely concerned about the Congolese children, who are bearing the brunt of this war," said Mr. Pita-Gros, pledging that the agency, while providing food aid to all displaced people, "will pay special attention to mothers and children, who are always the first to suffer."

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced today that the first "peace boat" had arrived in Mongalu, in the DRC's Equateur Province.

The boat, which docked on Sunday after a 12-day trip from Kinshasa, is carrying 650 tonnes of medical, educational and other relief supplies. In Mongalu, it is expected to load 1,000 tons of maize for distribution to vulnerable groups in Kinshasa.

The peace boat programme is a new UN initiative aimed at connecting communities separated by the frontlines, re-invigorating economic life and providing humanitarian assistance to those in need.