-- A country where 73 percent of the
population is undernourished, where 2.2 million people are
displaced, where 1.9 million children are suffering from acute
malnutrition and where the situation is worsened by an
infrastructure in ruins and cut-off agricultural supply lines.
This is the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"When you look at the situation and the
needs, international help ought to have been pouring
in," says Fernanda Guerrieri, Chief of FAO's
Emergency Operations Service. "But it didn't, even
though a fragile peace agreement was crafted in the beginning of
2002." Of the US$24.7 million requested by FAO via the
United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal 2002 (CAP 2002),
less than a quarter (23 percent) came through.
"It is the 'CNN effect," adds
Ms Guerrieri. "The conflict in the Great Lakes Region
has been going on for so long that there is no more media
interest. And no media attention equals limited donor money. The
Democratic Republic of Congo is a forgotten emergency."
Despite the lack of funds, much was
achieved. FAO's focus was on identifying and helping
communities most affected by severe malnutrition. FAO:
- provided tools and
seeds to grow vegetables and food crops to more than
500 000 families;
- distributed nets and fishing
gear to 20 000 fishing households;
- offered nutrition
training to families with malnourished children in
- set up
quality seed production in communities in stable
rehabilitation of selected "feeder
roads" to enable transportation of
agricultural products from farming areas to cities to make trade
security, it is now possible to reach people and areas that have
been inaccessible for years. "Even if a new crisis
breaks out and access is no longer possible, at least we got
them new tools and seeds, so people will be able to cope for a
while," says Ms Guerrieri.
Democratic Republic of Congo has a very strong civil society,
and the involvement of hundreds of local non-governmental
organizations is crucial to all the project activities -- from
seed and tool distribution to repair of roads and bridges.
"We could not have achieved as much with the limited
funds available without the involvement of the grass-roots
organizations," Ms Guerrieri says.
The funds for the 2002 activities came mainly from the
European Commission and the governments of Belgium, Japan and
Sweden. All in all, US$5.7 million was donated in response to
the CAP 2002. " But just imagine how much more could
have been done and how many more people could have been helped
had we received the full amount asked for," laments Ms
The Democratic Republic of Congo
is also included in the 2003 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal.
The agricultural component, for which FAO is responsible,
amounts to US$12.3 million. It emphasizes distribution of
agricultural and fishing tools, support to households with
children in feeding centres, production and distribution of
quality seeds, breeding of small livestock, rehabilitation of
agricultural feeder roads and aquaculture, plus coordination of
emergency agriculture operations.