Refugees in Bakuvu, Democratic Republic of Congo. MSF.

Johannesburg – More than three million people are facing starvation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), says David Beasley the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), who is appealing for aid to avert a humanitarian crisis in Kasai province.

In an interview with the BBC Beasley further warned that hundreds of thousands of children could die in the coming months if urgent aid was not delivered.

Following the death of a militia leader, Kamuina Nsapu, in August 2016 during clashes with security forces, violence flared and 1.5 million were forced out of their homes, the majority children.

Kasai province has been the hardest hit.

"Our teams are out in the field, we saw burned huts, burned homes, seriously malnourished children that had been stunted, obviously many children have died already,"  said Beasley.

"We're talking about several hundred thousand children there that will die in the next few months, if we don't get first funds and then second food, and then third access in the right locations," he added.

WFP only has one percent of the necessary funding to help those suffering in Kasai and with the upcoming rainy season delivering aid will be even harder as the roads become impassable.

But delivering aid by air would see costs escalate.

The fighting in Kasai has intensified since Nsapu’s death with other Kamuina Nsapu militia factions joining the fighting, all with different causes but all united in targeting the DRC authorities.

More than 3 000 people have been killed and the UN has discovered dozens of mass graves in the area.