The United Nations food agency is ramping up its humanitarian operations in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in response to deadly fighting between Government forces and armed rebel groups that has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
The escalating conflict between Government forces (FARDC) and a rebel militia known as the Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP) has uprooted an estimated 250,000 people in the past few months, mainly in North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda.
As part of its response the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is extending its humanitarian relief efforts to Orientale province, where civilians have been caught up in a separate conflict involving the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel militia that has waged war against Ugandan Government forces since the mid-1980s and is accused of recruiting children to serve as soldiers or sexual slaves.
WFP has increased its delivery of food assistance to reach some 564,000 people across eastern DRC, where around 383,000 were displaced in North Kivu alone and 70,000 more remain inaccessible due to poor roads and insecurity in the region.
The agency is also concerned about a humanitarian crisis unfolding around Dungu, in far north-eastern Orientale province, where LRA forces have been attacking civilians, according to a WFP press release issued yesterday.
The WFP added that its efforts to assist the estimated 70,000 people displaced by the LRA have been hampered by the worsening security situation and the area’s impenetrable roads.
To reach those affected by the conflict, WFP is opening a strategic air bridge from Entebbe, in Uganda, to Dungu, which will be made available to other humanitarian agencies.
Yesterday, WFP airlifted two trucks using a giant helicopter into Dungu, where they will be used to transport food to distribution sites.
In North Kivu, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a WFP partner, has delivered food to nearly 45,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living along the Sake-Sasha axis, where CNDP rebels are reported to be advancing.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) have undertaken to improve a particularly poor stretch of road between Sake and Masisi.
Further to the north, around Nyanzale, a non-governmental organization (NGO) partner of WFP has distributed food from the UN agency to more than 56,000 people, many of whom also received non-food items, such as jerry cans, cooking pots and sleeping mats.