Although the Republic of the Congo (RoC), which is classified as a lower-middle-income country, has seen strong economic growth in recent years, an unequal distribution of wealth remains. In addition, the nation faces high poverty and malnutrition levels; according to the UN World Food Program (WFP), almost 50 percent of the population subsists under the national poverty line and over 20 percent of all children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. WFP also reports that domestic agricultural production covers less than a third of RoC’s food needs. RoC therefore imports large quantities of food, driving high food prices.
Since 2016, surging conflict in the Pool Department of RoC has prompted significant displacement, cutting off populations from their livelihoods and support systems. According to the Government of RoC and the UN, approximately 81,000 people had fled their homes as of May 2017, nearly a six-fold increase from the previous year. In addition, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that RoC hosts more than 43,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Among internally displaced persons (IDPs) ages 6 to 59 months in southeastern RoC’s Pool and Bouenza departments, the global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence is 17.3 percent, exceeding the emergency threshold of 15 percent, according to a May 2017 survey conducted by the Government of RoC and the UN. In addition, more than half of IDP households surveyed were food-insecure.
With support from USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP), WFP is providing emergency food distributions to more than 11,500 food-insecure people, including IDPs and host communities, in the Pool and Bouenza departments of RoC. FFP’s contribution allows WFP to procure rice regionally, thereby facilitating the rapid delivery of life-saving aid to vulnerable Congolese households.
In response to the concerning levels of GAM in southeastern RoC, FFP has also prioritized activities that target populations who are susceptible to or suffering from acute malnutrition. FFP support has enabled WFP to dispatch nearly 700 metric tons of specialized nutrition products to 13,100 children ages 6-59 months and 14,600 pregnant and lactating women.
FFP also supports WFP to provide emergency food assistance to refugees sheltering in RoC after fleeing conflict in CAR.