DR Congo

Agencies reaching more displaced in Democratic Republic of Congo, but find thousands still trapped behind frontline

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Nairobi -- The World Food Programme announced today that aid agencies working out of major urban centres in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are beginning to reach more people displaced by the conflict. However, recent assessments indicate that countless others are still trapped in the nation's interior without access to humanitarian assistance.
Over the past three weeks, WFP staff visited six locations in both government-held and rebel-controlled areas to try and gather more information on the plight of the displaced.

"Agencies like WFP have recently been getting greater access to more remote locations in the DRC, " said Kees Tuinenburg, WFP Country Director for DRC. "And what we're often finding is that in some cases, entire villages have shifted to distant areas because of ongoing security problems and have brought with them virtually nothing to survive on."

"And what worries us even more is that we know we're just seeing a fraction of the displaced people out there. We've heard from others that many people are hiding in densely-forested areas behind the frontlines, too frightened to try and make the journey towards major urban centres."

The teams flew to Kinshasa, Lubambashi, Pweto, Goma, Bukavu and Bunia. In the northern Katanga town of Pweto, the team drove for five hours through a mountainous region to reach the village of Kyemia, only 80 kms. away. There they found 4,000 displaced persons from distant villages living with the local population with virtually no outside assistance. Many were traumatized, visibly malnourished and in need of basic medical assistance.

"Our biggest problem right now is that we don't have enough food to fully support even the limited numbers of displaced we can access at the moment. Even worse, if we don't receive substantial new pledges in the coming weeks, we'll completely run out of food by April,"said Tuinenburg.

In June, WFP launched a US$30 million program to provide food assistance to 350,000 internally displaced and vulnerable persons on both sides of the conflict in the DRC. To-date the agency has received a mere 29 per cent of the funds needed.

The UN estimates that there are over 800,000 people in DRC who have been uprooted from their homes by the war and are living in precarious conditions throughout the country. Unless new funds are pledged soon, agencies like WFP will not be able to provide even survival rations for the tens of thousands already malnourished and struggling to survive.

The World Food Programme is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. Last year its relief and development workers fed 75 million people, including most of the world refugees. Headquartered in Rome, Italy, WFP has food aid operations in 80 countries around the world.

For more information, contact:

Kees Tuinenburg Michele Quintaglie Wagdi Othman

Country Director Public Affairs Officer Public Affairs Officer

WFP Kinshasa WFP Nairobi WFP, Abidjan

Tel. 243-88-05046 or Tel. 254-2-622336 Tel. 231-226593/4

871-761-559-779 (satellite) 871-382-420-635 sat.