DRC facing food crisis

2010-06-10 12:16

Kinshasa - Food prices Democratic Republic of Congo have jumped 28% in the six-month period to March 2010, resulting in acute malnutrition in some areas of the central African country, a UN agency said on Wednesday.

"This rise was particularly notable in 11 cities," including Lubumbashi, the country's second largest city in the southeast and the copper capital, said Stefania Trassari, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, quoting the World Food Programme.

Mbandaka, the main city of northwestern Equateur province, and Mbuji-Mayi, the diamond capital of Kasai-Oriental, were also affected.

Trassari said an enquiry in five of DRC's 11 provinces in February revealed that "global acute malnutrition is 10% above the warning threshold" in these regions.

Many younger people were therefore leaving the farming sector for more lucrative mining, or join armed groups, she added.

With bananas a staple second only to manioc, food security in eastern provinces is also threatened by a bug that causes wilting of the banana tree.

In early April Congolese Health Minister Victor Makwenge warned that at least 700 children five years or younger were dying of hunger every day in Equateur, Kasai-Oriental and Occidental, Katanga and Maniema provinces.

The World Food Programme provides food aid to about one million Congolese including 27 000 pregnant or breast-feeding women, nearly 400 000 schoolchildren and more than 177 000 children suffering from malnutrition, its DRC director has said.