DR Congo

DRC: Large-scale food distributions roll out as WFP expands response to Congo crisis

GOMA - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today began food distributions to more than 135,000 displaced people in six camps around Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The distributions are part of WFP's response to assist victims of the recent fighting in eastern DRC, which has included the delivery of high-energy biscuits to displaced children stalked by malnutrition. WFP also participated in an assessment mission into Rutshuru district, the region worst affected by last week's fighting.

"WFP is responding as quickly as possible to deliver food to people who've been brutalised too many times over many years," said Mustapha Darboe, WFP Regional Director for Southern, Eastern and Central Africa. "Now they are suffering again. Tens of thousands have been uprooted in North Kivu and we are doing everything we can to find them and help them."

The 10-day rations will be distributed in all camps at the same time to avoid people criss-crossing the city in search of extra food assistance, and to prevent disturbances at distribution sites. They will also ease the current squeeze on food supplies in Goma since fighting temporarily cut off many key delivery routes.

WFP is bolstering its food supplies in Goma by drawing on a 1,000-metric-ton contingency stock held at its office in Bukavu in South Kivu, as well as expediting deliveries from Uganda and Tanzania. A further 1,200 tons is being loaned to the operation by WFP Rwanda. The WFP Goma office is also being reinforced by staff from within DRC and abroad.

As part of efforts to coordinate the response most efficiently, WFP is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to roll out food distributions to the displaced as quickly as possible. The ICRC will take charge of distributions to the estimated 65,000 displaced people who are now gathered at Kibati camp, 15 kilometres north of Goma.

A UN assessment mission to the Rutshuru area - focus of much of the recent fighting - was forced to cut short its work on Tuesday when it found itself in close proximity to new clashes around Kiwanja, north of Rutshuru town. Camps in the area have been deserted and WFP and other agencies are working to establish what has happened to the inhabitants and what assistance they now require.

"This is a dangerous and unstable environment and it's going to be challenging to deliver food to where it is needed most. We need proper security in place to ensure everyone involved is safe and that we reach the most vulnerable," Darboe said.

Immediately before the latest round of fighting at the end of last month, WFP completed distributions to the main camps around Rutshuru. A reduced 15-day ration was distributed in the knowledge that the security situation was extremely volatile and that the food would be easier to carry in the event people were forced to move again. It is hoped that many of the people who left the camps in the area were able to take some food with them.

In its capacity as the UN Logistics Cluster lead, WFP is facilitating seven rotations of a Belgian government C-130 aircraft into Goma airport. The first deliveries of humanitarian supplies including food and medicine were completed on Tuesday. WFP Logistics has also loaned five temporary warehouses to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to serve as shelter for the displaced at Kibati.

WFP is stretched to the limit in Congo, with major new displacement in Orientale province, around Bunia and Dungu, following clashes on two separate fronts in recent weeks. WFP has moved swiftly to distribute food to the displaced, but resources are limited and the region extremely difficult to access.

WFP has welcomed a US$3.1million cash donation from ECHO -- the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office. The cash contribution permits WFP's operation in the eastern DRC to use the funds directly where they are most needed in the current emergency.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the UN's frontline agency for hunger solutions. This year, WFP plans to feed 90 million people in 80 countries.

WFP now provides RSS feeds to help journalists keep up with the latest press releases, videos and photos as they are published on WFP.org. For more details see: http://www.wfp.org/english/?n=999.

WFP now has a dedicated ISDN line in Italy for quality two-way interviews with WFP officials.

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Marcus Prior, WFP, Goma media focal point, Cell. +254-733528912

Gregory Barrow, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132330, Cell. +39-3481325018, (ISDN line available)

Caroline Hurford, WFP/London, Tel. +44-20-72409001, Cell. +44-7968-008474

Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149, Cell. +1-202-4223383

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Cell. +1-646-8241112, luescher@un.org