Last December, over 1,800 newly displaced people escaped from RoC's conflict area near the capital Brazzaville, seeking safety and assistance at [WFP] camps.
With more victims arriving every day, the number of IDPs needing WFP food has increased 100 percent since fighting resumed in October 2002.
To cope with the sudden influx, over the next six months the agency urgently needs an estimated 4,000 metric tons of food aid.
WFP currently provides relief food for some 30,000 victims of the continuing conflict between government forces and rebels in the Pool region.
The newly displaced population is encamped in churches and abandoned buildings in Brazzaville, Bouenza Plateaux and Niari.
"The living conditions of these people are very precarious," said Sory Ouane, WFP's Country Director for RoC.
"They fled fighting bringing absolutely nothing with them. Their survival depends on the provision of relief food."
"We already have cases of malnutrition among children and elderly people," [Ouane added] "Their lives are at stake if we are forced to suspend operations for lack of funds."
Most of the displaced people walked for several days in the forest to avoid armed men before they found refuge in the camps.
In the rush to escape, people lost everything. Some families were separated, creating female-headed households and unaccompanied children.
Without urgent new donations, WFP fears that by March 2003 food rations will be reduced from the standard level of 2,167 kilocalories per person per day to 1,500 kcal.
Further cuts will be imposed until all stocks are exhausted, at which point the programme will be suspended.
OUT OF REACH
WFP is also concerned with another estimated 60,000 people trapped in the forest and off limits to aid workers.
Since the conflict began last March, thousands of people who fled the fighting hid in the forest, unable to find safe passage to peaceful areas.
So far, all efforts to negotiate humanitarian access to the Pool region have failed.
"We are extremely concerned about the fate of these people," Ouane said. "We don't know their condition, but we fear the worst. "
"Even if we eventually gain access to them, our lack of funds might prevent us from giving them the help they need."
Republic of Congo: situation report
In August 1998, fighting between the Congolese government and Uganda- and Rwanda-backed Congolese rebels spawned a regional war in DRoC, which left 1.8 million Congolese displaced and saw 100s of 1000 of refugees flee to surrounding countries.
Despite a cease fire signed by a variety of nations in 1999, sporadic fighting has continued and, in early 2002, fighting and looting broke out in the Pool region, near Brazzaville.
WFP began feeding victims at the end of May 2002.
To respond to the urgent needs of the affected populations, the agency had to divert resources from existing programmes in the country, such as Food-For-Work and Food-For-Training projects; the latter were suspended due to insufficient funding.
Africa Hunger Alert
To find out more about growing hunger elsewhere in Africa and the global campaign to assist more than 38 million people across the continent, go to WFP's "Africa Hunger Alert" webpage.
For more information on WFP's operations in RoC, contact:
Laura Melo, Spokesperson
Tel. +254-2-622 336