Hunger buffets Democratic Republic of Congo

Posted on http://mindtheglo.be on Thursday 29th May, 2008

Up to 100 persons die daily due to hunger and related causes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), says The Crisis Group.

But by its very nature, the DRC should not have a food shortage. It is one of the largest African nations richly-endowed by nature which should have ensured its prosperity and food security.

But what nature has generously given them on a platter; DRC's combatants have selfishly sliced with greed. The list of minerals evokes hope: diamond, copper, cobalt, crude oil, gold and cassiterite, to name a few, while agricultural produce is equally vast with coffee, sugar, rubber, cassava, banana, rubber and fruits topping the list.

DRC is however plagued by years of war and power struggle that have paralysed its productive capability, plunging its natives into hunger, malnutrition, poverty and preventable diseases.

Since its independence from Belgium in 1960, DRC has hardly seen peace or stability but wars and conflicts that have tended to decimate the agricultural workforce that accounts for 55 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Emerging statistics from the DRC show that there is not enough food for the population of 56 million. Life expectancy has shortened. most men die at 42 while women are lucky to reach 44.

Despite the reduction in conflict following the emergence of Joseph Kabila, as president in 2002, the army and other security agencies have not been able to establish a firm control in the country to guarantee the needed security and stability for natives to return to their homes and engage in productive ventures and farming.

While many people have been displaced from their homes and are refugees in neighbouring Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, others hide in the bush to avoid confrontation with militias.

Secretary-General of the DRC's Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Hubert Ali Ramazani, confesses that his country has a big problem with food production.

"DRC does not have a water or soil problem. We have a good country but lack money to boost the agriculture sector. People need the seeds, meat beef, fish, milk, potatoes, wheat.... Now the price is more expensive for the common people. That is the problem. In DRC, the markets are full of foods, but the people don't have the power to buy what they need..."

The Crisis Group says up to 100 persons die daily due to hunger and related causes.

The World Food Programme plans to get some $4-$5 million food aid for returnee-Congolese and another $4 million to stabilise the country's rail system in Oriental Province.

On the other hand, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing $21.8 million through the Catholic Relief Services, a U. S.-based charity, to provide aid to small farmers in DRC and others in combating farm diseases and increase their yield so as to avert food crisis there.

DRC's Minister for Industry, Simon Kiamputu, says the government is trying to restore a system of rule of law necessary for business to thrive.

Mr. Kiamputu says with the country's huge water resources it will be possible for the people to survive the food crisis once the right climate is put in place to ensure stability and food production .

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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