The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo held their first election in 2006, and their young democratic nation has been making steady economic progress in the years since. However, research by organizations such as the World Food Programme and Action Against Hunger shows that economic progress in the DRC is not necessarily translating into improved lives for the nation’s poor. Experts suggest that acute and chronic hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the result of many factors, including the conflict in eastern regions and the government’s failure to invest in agriculture and infrastructure. Here are five facts about hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
- The majority of 6.7 million people suffering from hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo live in the nation’s eastern regions, in provinces such as North and South Kivu, nearby Orientale, Maniema and northern parts of Katanga. Unsurprisingly, these provinces are also the areas most affected by the ongoing ethnic and tribal anti-government conflicts in eastern Congo.
- Because of rampant hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo, nearly half of all children in the nation are short for their age, a medical phenomenon referred to as “stunting.” A number of factors contribute to stunted height, but the most important ones include poor feeding practices and poor maternal health before, during and after pregnancy.
- The ongoing conflict in eastern Congo has also driven many families away from the region, creating a huge number of internally displaced people and refugees. These people are especially vulnerable to malnourishment. The communities that host these people also become increasingly at risk to suffer food shortages.
- Lack of availability of clean drinking water also contributes to hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In many impoverished communities, families must walk for miles to reach the nearest clean water source, and because such a task can take up the better part of the day, most people only have enough time and strength to bring back water for themselves and their families. This leaves little available time and strength to get water for agricultural purposes, leading to food shortages.
- The government’s failure to invest in agriculture and infrastructure also fuels hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The most affected provinces lie in the east, the center of the ongoing conflict. Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, however, is in the western part of the country. Without proper roads, it can be difficult for hunger alleviation organizations to reach those who need aid the most. The fighting between the government and the rebels disrupts the people’s harvests and leads to more food shortages.
The old, ever-present geopolitical conflicts happening in eastern Congo put the young democratic nation in a vulnerable position, and the people living in the rural communities surrounding the area bear the brunt of the problems. Hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an example of why those who seek world prosperity should also seek world peace.
– Mary Grace Costa