The pandemic, conflict and other health crises have hit livelihoods and food security dramatically, a UN report warns
Nearly 22 million people face "crisis-level or worse" food insecurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) due to conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic, an arm of the United Nations has warned.
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), part of the UN, said the number of food-insecure people has risen by more than six million since 2019, making it the world’s biggest food crisis.
Its report read: “The number of people facing acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels has dramatically increased – from 15.6 million in 2019 to 21.8 million… and are mostly located in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Ituri and Kasai Central."
While the major causes were conflict and disruptions from the pandemic, the country has also experienced an economic decline and other health crises, including outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus and measles before they were contained in late 2020.
The DRC initially imposed movement restrictions to try to stop the spread of coronavirus, but lifted them in June. However, while the country has seen low death rates - less than 400 have died out of 13,000 reported cases - the effects of Covid-19 on the economy have been much more dire. Many people have lost income sources over the course of the year as the pandemic has progressed.
The no-movement rule decimated the incomes of small earners including farmers and led to a rise in food prices, in a country where 72 per cent already live on less than $1.90 in a day. Global downturns also affected exports from the resource-rich country. The World Bank has projected a recession.
The Central African country is also facing armed violence that has seen hundreds of thousands displaced and many dead. It remains a major obstacle to food security. In June, the UN said 1,300 people had been killed in the space of eight months owing to fighting between armed groups and government forces.
Food insecurity, hunger and famine are on the rise around the world as a result of the huge disruption caused by Covid-19. This week, the UN warned that it would be a success to reach the end of the year without at least one major famine being declared, a huge setback as famines have generally been considered to be a thing of the past.
According to the FAO report released this week on DRC: “Persistent insecurity… particularly in the eastern part of the country, continues to affect vulnerable populations’ livelihoods, limiting their access to fields thereby disrupting food production and further increasing vulnerabilities.”
The FAO warns that continued insecurity could take the country over the edge and worsen humanitarian conditions.
“Any further disruption of food supply chains will worsen human suffering and hamper efforts to tackle and reduce food insecurity,” it said.