Our staff provides therapeutic food supplies by hand to health centers in most remote areas


The Democratic Republic of Congo has been one of the main topics of discussion this year, for several events: in February, the Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio was killed in an ambush by local armed groups. A few months later, in May, the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, about 20 km from the city of Goma, with the consequent flow of displaced persons and increased humanitarian needs. In a context constantly characterised by insecurity and tensions between local communities, especially in the areas of South Kivu and North Kivu, there is an alarming fact that is not often mentioned: the lack of food. With a population of around 89 million people, one in three in the Democratic Republic of Congo suffers from acute malnutrition. About 27.3 million people live in food insecurity.*


Fighting food insecurity in the country


“Since 2019 INTERSOS has been fighting child malnutrition and the one affecting pregnant or breastfeeding women – argues Federico Fabietti, INTERSOS project manager in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “In collaboration with other international agencies, such as WFP, UNICEF and OCHA, we try to meet the needs of huge numbers of people who have been suffering from hunger every day for months and years”. The work of INTERSOS in the country has been continuing since 2009, among the activities related to malnutrition is the distribution of therapeutic food packages, such as Plumpy’nut, useful for the health of malnourished people. “Our activities are rooted in the territory in order to reach as far as possible, in hard-to-reach rural areas that would otherwise remain outside any humanitarian intervention”.


The INTERSOS malnutrition project targets around 100 health centres in five health-critical areas of South Kivu province. “A team of professionals from INTERSOS trains doctors and nurses to work in these facilities, where knowledge about malnutrition is still very limited”, Fabietti says. “Managing to carry out these projects is a daily challenge, there are a lot of difficulties, from those related to the possibility of training in the centres to those related to food distribution. The insecurity of the area is such that we have to make daily calculations on movements and activities that we can or cannot carry out on a daily basis”.


Distributing food in the most remote areas


To reach the most isolated centres, INTERSOS staff, with the help of volunteers, transport the food by hand, making a sort of relay race to get the food packages to their destination. A walking route made on roads otherwise inaccessible by any other means of transport. “The journey on foot from the city centre can be up to 18 km, which means that arrival times are very long, because they include stops on the mud as well as dangerous terrain due to the presence of armed groups”. Once they arrive, the therapeutic food is stored and then distributed with the local doctor according to a precise plan based on individual needs. The main beneficiaries are women and children, especially the most fragile and those under five.


Today, malnutrition figures are shocking: around 857,000 children are malnourished and 469,000 women. Overall, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s population in need of humanitarian assistance has reached 19.6 million.** “Our food health and nutrition projects cover about 80 per cent of the territory considered most fragile in South Kivu province, an extensive coverage that allows us to work in areas where malnutrition rates are extremely high”, Fabietti concludes.


*FAO and WFP data.

**Reliefweb data.