In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the food crisis is yet another addition to the country’s deteriorating humanitarian situation, adding onto the impact caused by armed conflicts, natural disasters and disease outbreaks (most recently COVID-19)



One in three people suffer from acute hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 7 million – or 25% – of the nation’s population of 27.3 million, lives in a state of food insecurity. These are the direct and unrelenting mathematics of people’s lives. The latest alarm was sounded last April by the United Nations together with the World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) agencies.


In the Congo, hunger has been a chronic condition for years. For decades, there has been what is appropriately defined as a humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where armed conflicts, natural disasters and disease outbreaks are constant factors. Although the poverty rate of the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa has decreased slightly over the past two decades, particularly in rural areas, the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains one of the poorest areas in the world. The nation faces an unstable mix of crisis conditions, political stalemate, and the associated slowdowns in economic and social growth.


Internal Conflicts and food crisis


Hunger is widespread, deeply rooted, and totally indifferent to the vulnerabilities already existing in the territory. Internal insecurity, the often-difficult coexistence between more than 200 ethnic groups and the continuous inter-community clashes, carried out by 120 armed groups concentrated in the eastern provinces -such as Ituri, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika – as well as the central region of Kasai, make this a deeply wounded country. In all these areas of conflict, the onset of COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the pandemic have deepened the already existing food crisis.


Humanitarian intervention in places like this becomes essential. INTERSOS has been in the country for 12 years. For the past 3 years, it has focused on the eastern regions where mass migrations of people occur as a result of the violent clashes between rival groups. One is continually on the move in the Democratic Republic of Congo, perpetually searching for a place that is safer than the one previously abandoned. For nearly two decades, the Hauts-Plateaux region of Fizi / Itombwe (Mwenga) and Uvira, has been plagued by ongoing tensions and repeated warfare between local communities.


Violence increases economic, social and political instability.  Access to food is increasingly difficult, and nourishment becomes a privilege accessible to very few. To respond to this emergency, INTERSOS workers have launched a feed delivery project to extremely remote or rural areas that are otherwise excluded from aid due to inaccessibility. INTERSOS explored how to best provide food to such isolated and food insecure families? It would have to be by foot. Men and women set off for miles and miles of dirt road, between forests and swamps, carrying packs of food with them to be delivered to those who have none. In 2021, it may appear a surreal undertaking, but in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo it is a necessary response to a real emergency.


The consequences of COVID-19 on access to food


In the three areas where the project is active, approximately 76,478 people are displaced, a figure that is evolving in the light of the continuous movement of the population. In terms of access to food, local instability contributes to crop losses, as happened in 2020, when entire crops and seeds were looted by gunmen, and vast agricultural fields were burned or devastated. The impact on the food security of the population was immediate, with an increase of almost 300% in the price of food. Almost 70% of the Congolese population lives in rural areas, mainly engaged in cultivation, fishing and livestock breeding, facing deep poverty despite the immense potential.


The levels of food insecurity have further increased with the introduction of measures against the spread of COVID-19, which have imposed restrictions on movements and caused loss of income, resulting in reduced access to markets and, consequently, an increase in inflation. For a population consisting mainly of young people and children, the uncertainty of the future becomes as chronic as the hunger that has dominated it for years. Especially for children under five and pregnant or breastfeeding women, mortality is on the rise and it is more than urgent to ensure treatment and prevention. Precisely for this reason, INTERSOS will strengthen its support for health facilities through medical monitoring of the treatment against malnutrition.