Shabani, 3, (left) Ngalula, 7 (middle) and Kevine, 9 (right) during a meal in Kasai central in DR Congo. Thousands of women and children suffer from acute or severe malnutrition in this area. Photo: Ephrem Chiruza/NRC

DR Congo: Imminent hunger crisis threatens Ebola-stricken North Kivu

Published 24. Apr 2019
An average of 87 per cent of displaced people are living on just over a meal a day in areas already plagued by conflict and Ebola in Congo’s North Kivu. Families affected by the deadly virus have lost access to food and are on the brink of malnutrition. Ebola cannot be eradicated if people are left starving, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“Fighting Ebola should not make the world forget that millions of Congolese cannot find enough to eat,” warns NRC DR Congo Country Director, Maureen Philippon. “This is due to conflict and insecurity, displacement, a series of poor harvests and upset economic activities. The current Ebola crisis further worsens these conditions.”

An unintended consequence of the outbreak has been its adverse effect on the economy of upper North Kivu. People infected or suspected of Ebola infection have been forced to abandon their work when they are incubated.

According to recent data collected by the United Nations, several areas in upper North Kivu—including areas affected by the Ebola outbreak— are experiencing major spikes in hunger rates. During the first three months of year, the province experienced between a 31 and 66 per cent increase in hunger among displaced families and the communities hosting them.

“We are deeply concerned that the international community is sacrificing one crisis for another, rather than looking at the whole picture, and now the population is suffering further as a result,” warned Philippon. “We must rethink how we address these needs.”

Upper North Kivu’s territories have been insecure for years with massive inter-communal and inter-ethnic conflicts causing the majority of farming families to flee and abandon their fields. This has led to instances of crop failure and a decline in markets. Low humanitarian funding has also had a crippling effect on the people in need within these areas. Several aid agencies have had to close operations in the beleaguered province between 2017 and 2018.

“People are much less likely to seek treatment or be treated successfully for Ebola if their basic needs are not being met,” said Philippon. “If we continue on this course, we will face a double wave of sickness and loss of life much sooner than we think.”