Food a concern for displaced in Congo

Sep 1, 2014 by

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Armed conflicts in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have displaced 2.9 million people and forced an additional 500,000 to flee to neighboring countries. The instability has created a myriad of challenges in the camps — insufficient food and a lack of proper health-care services, education and jobs.

Kisare

Kisare

This summer I visited three camps partially supported by Mennonite Central Committee in Rwanda and Congo. In my conversations with residents, it became apparent that finding enough food is a big challenge.

Camps for refugees and people displaced within their home country are often administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in partnership with other humanitarian organizations and donor governments. Distribution of food is a big part of this work. But due in part to the magnitude of need, capacity and funding issues, UNHCR and its partners are not able to provide camp residents with sufficient food.

One of the complaints I heard was that UNHCR does not provide enough food (or cash value) for entire families.

Additionally, the UNHCR does not provide sufficient food with high nutritional value. A family of five receives the equivalent of $20 a month to buy corn, wheat or rice. Little is left over to purchase other food. Babies, older people and people with health conditions such as HIV and AIDS, for whom a nutritious diet is particularly critical, are most affected by this.

Jobs and land for food production are scarce in most areas where camps are located. In some cases, neighbors with extra land lease their plots to camp residents so that they can produce their own food, or hire camp residents to till their lands. But these arrangements are not always dependable. Agreements are often reached between camp dwellers and their neighbors without the involvement of supporting organizations.

Lack of funding is at the core of insufficient food provisions at camps. Humanitarian crises around the globe have stretched many relief agencies, including the UNHCR.

Rich countries such as the U.S. have been cutting their funding of humanitarian aid. Relief agencies are forced to cut their food rations by as much as 50 percent.

The challenge of meeting the needs of refugees and internally displaced people falls upon all of us individually, as well as through our governments and organizations such as MCC.

As we proclaim our faith and share God’s love and compassion, we must lift up our voices on behalf of our brothers and sisters living in desperate circumstances.

Let your representatives know that you support increased funding for humanitarian aid, including for refugees and internally displaced people.

Patricia Kisare is legislative associate for international affairs in the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office.


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