Johannesburg – An urgent humanitarian appeal for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is to be launched on Thursday after three UN agencies warned that unless urgent action was taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people were at risk.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed on Wednesday that time was running out after farmers - who fled the DRC due to the ongoing conflict - missed three planting seasons.

This has left people with almost nothing to eat and food assistance is failing to fill the gap.

Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced, said the organisations.

Around 630,000 people who returned to their burned down villages after hiding in the forest, need help to resume food production. Over ninety percent of rural communities depend entirely on agriculture.

“Agriculture is the only way to become productive again. Not only does it generate food and income for families, but it restores hope, dignity and self-reliance,” said Alexis Bonte, FAO representative in the DRC. 

The nutritional status of children is particularly critical. 

“At least 400,000 children under five have severe, acute malnutrition,” said UNICEF’s acting representative in the DRC, Tajudeen Oyewale.

“They are likely to die unless they urgently receive health, water, sanitation and nutrition support. Longer-term food security must be restored and feeding and care practices improved so that children can have access to the adequate quality food they need.”

The UN and its partners are racing against time to feed the people of Kasai, fight malnutrition among its children and build resilience. But the odds are stacked against them as infrastructure is limited, security poor and funding in short supply.

“There are signs that donors are beginning to respond, but resources are woefully inadequate given the scale of human suffering,” said WFP’s Country Director in DRC, Claude Jibidar. 

“The Congolese government and the international community must re-engage on all fronts to prevent a major famine in Kasai. Failure to do so, immediately and collectively, means many people will die.”

African News Agency/ANA