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Food and humanitarian crisis looms in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The current food and humanitarian situation and outlook in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) give cause for serious concern. Since the beginning of August, the country has yet again been plunged into civil strife, barely a year after the insurgency that toppled the former government.

To date, the most affected parts of the country are the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, which are currently in rebel hands, and the southwestern part stretching from the estuary of the Congo River, including the towns of Banana, Mwanda, Boma and Kitona, the strategically important port of Matadi and the main hydroelectric power station, at Inga. Reports indicate that most of this latter area has been recaptured by government troops supported by intervention forces from some neighbouring countries, but with considerable loss of life and population displacement.

During the brief period this southwestern part was in rebel hands, the country's access to shipping routes in the Atlantic Ocean were cut off, causing prices of imported commodities, including foodstuffs, in Kinshasa and other urban centres to rise sharply, seriously reducing access to food by the urban poor. The situation was aggravated by electricity cut-offs by the insurgents in control of the Inga power station which supplies electricity to the capital city of Kinshasa, Brazzaville in neighbouring Republic of Congo, as well as to the copper mining centres in Shaba Province in the southeast, resulting in widespread disruption of industrial and commercial activities, including food distribution.

The eastern part of DRC faces a far bigger humanitarian crisis should the fighting escalate as seems probable with devastating regional food supply implications and a humanitarian tragedy that could engulf the whole of the Great Lakes region and beyond. In the first place, this part of DRC has been in a state of insecurity since the Rwandan refugee crisis of 1994, with various armed militias terrorizing the local population. It has been estimated that over 80 percent of the rural population in North and South Kivu have been forced to flee their homes at least once in the last 12 months. This constant population displacement has taken a heavy toll on local food production and the local economy, resulting in widespread food supply difficulties and high rates of malnutrition.

Go to Special Alert

8 September 1998

Related links:

  • Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS)
  • Global Watch archive

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