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Continuing violence is jeopardizing the season A harvest in the North and Central-East.

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • December 2023
Continuing violence is jeopardizing the season A harvest in the North and Central-East.

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Seasonal calendar for a typical year
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through May 2024
  • Key Messages
    • Insecurity in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has continued to deteriorate over the past three months, particularly in the province of Nord-Kivu, despite a short-lived lull in armed clashes between M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC). Renewed hostilities from M23 rebels in Masisi, Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories for the past 2 months have disrupted seasonal harvests due to lack of access to cultivated land. This situation is likely to exacerbate food insecurity in these areas already facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, with an increase in the subset of the population likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
    • The 2023-2024 season A began in October with irregular rainfall. Excess rainfall at the start of the season caused flooding of crops and led to the loss of planted areas, particularly in the provinces of Tshopo, South and North Ubangi, Kwilu, Lomami, Kasai, and South Kivu, where river levels and the water table rose, flooding lowland crops.  With this disruption in rainfall, it is highly likely that harvests expected at the end of the season will be lower than in previous seasons.
    • According to the national bank, the inflation rate of the Congolese franc stood at 23 percent, above the projected annual target of 20.8 percent. On the markets, however, prices of the main foodstuffs remained stable this month compared with the last two months. However, prices of staple foods (beans, corn flour, vegetable oil and rice) in November 2023 were around 51 percent above last year's levels, and 101 percent above the five-year average.

    Current Situation

    Conflicts and population movement: Since the resumption of hostilities between the M23 rebels and the FARDC supported by local armed groups known as Wazalendo last October, waves of population displacement continued. In November 2023, an estimated 570,000 newly displaced people have been observed across the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru, Lubero, Walikale, Nyiragongo, and the city of Goma, according to figures from the Commission on Population Movements (CMP). On December 12, a ceasefire was signed between the Congolese and Rwandan governments, and the imminent start of negotiations was announced. However, clashes between the opposing forces, accompanied by bombardments, have resumed around the Rutshuru-Masisi-Nyiragongo triangle. Meanwhile, ADF attacks on civilians continue in Beni and Mambasa territory, with almost a hundred people killed in November in several villages in the Oïcha and Kamango health zones, in the north of Beni territory. These attacks continue to cause displacement not only within the country, but also into Uganda. According to an IOM assessment, as of November 2023, the DRC counted over 6.9 million displaced persons, including around 1.1 million displaced by the M23 crisis. 

    Departure of the East African Community (EAC) force: In December, EAC troops began to withdraw from the territories of Rutshuru, Masisi and Nyiragongo, where they had been deployed. This departure created a security vacuum which benefited the M23 rebels, who relaunched hostilities and recaptured previously lost areas. The Congolese government has therefore called in SADEC troops, whose mission and arrival date are unknown. This situation is leading to security instability in the area and facilitating an increase in violence by armed groups against the local population.

    Electoral situation: Preparations for the elections scheduled for December 2023 continued despite irregularities decried by civil society and the opposition. Logistical challenges in the preparations are heightening political tension in the country.

    Agricultural production: The agricultural season A in the north-east began in September 2023, with irregular rainfall during the sowing period. Since then, violence by armed groups has continued to displace thousands of farming households who have abandoned their fields, migrating to safer areas where they were unable to plant in time for the current season.  For those households that were able to carry out a full season, access to agricultural inputs, particularly seeds, remained restricted, particularly in conflict zones.  All these factors have led to a decline in the season's performance, with consecutive seasons of below average production.

    Commodity price volatility and local currency behavior: Since November 2023, the Congolese franc has lost 35 percent of its value on the Kinshasa black market between January and December 2023. In addition, fuel prices have risen by an average of 12 percent since October in the eastern zone. This situation has had an impact on product prices, particularly imported foodstuffs, with an average increase of 25 percent. According to the Congolese government, inflation reached 22.6 percent in 2023, compared with 9.2 percent in 2022. Prices of the main staple foods continue to rise; the average price of basic foodstuffs (beans, corn flour, vegetable oil and rice) was 51 percent above last year's level, and 101 percent above the five-year average.

    Epidemiological situation: The DRC continues to experience outbreaks of cholera and measles. From January to November 2023, some 47,816 cases of cholera were reported in 15 affected provinces covering 105 health zones. This represents an increase of 58 percent compared with the same period last year. As for the measles epidemic, since August 2010, the DRC has been experiencing a resurgence of measles outbreaks in almost all of the country's provinces. In 2023, more than 57,167 cases were reported in 91 health zones, an increase of 5 percent compared with 2022. 

    Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian assistance remains underfunded in the DRC. According to OCHA/DRC, only 38 percent of the humanitarian funds required for the DRC were met in 2023. As a result, the overall level of humanitarian assistance remains low. In addition, the level of insecurity and physical accessibility in certain territories prevent humanitarian access to certain rebel-occupied areas.  UN agencies launched an immediate scale-up of humanitarian operations in eastern DRC in June 2023 to help people affected by the conflict in eastern DRC. This operation reached around 2.2 million people in the provinces of North Kivu, Ituri and South Kivu, providing emergency food aid, cash and nutritional interventions. 

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year
    Seasonal calendar for DRC.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions of the October 2023 to May 2024 food security outlook report remain broadly unchanged, with the exception of those below:

    • General elections in December 2023: Elections are likely to take place despite the slow pace of organization and the completion of all necessary pre-electoral procedures. A resurgence of social unrest is likely after the publication of provisional results, which will likely be contested by the finalists. 

    • Conflict and population movements: Fighting between the M23 and Wazalendo, the FARDC and international forces is likely to continue until at least May 2024, despite the likely announcement and extension of new ceasefires. Fighting between mobile M23 units and Wazalendo forces is expected to intensify in the western Rutshuru and eastern Masisi territories, as the M23 seeks to further isolate areas from western trade and supply routes. Internal displacement in the Masisi territories, the northern part of Nyiragongo and southern Rutshuru is likely to continue. 

      ADF attacks on civilians in the Beni, Irumu and Mambasa territories are likely to persist until at least May 2024, albeit at lower levels than in early 2023.

    • Anti-MONUSCO demonstrations: The departure of EAC troops in December reduced the population's antipathy towards foreign troops. However, the population remains skeptical about MONUSCO's role. This is likely to lead to anti-MONUSCO social unrest, while MONUSCO's hasty departure would create a security vacuum and lead to increased instability, enabling armed groups to increase their territorial control.

    • Staple food prices and market functioning: Despite localized variations based on the dynamics of supply and demand observed in certain areas of the country, prices of the main imported and local foodstuffs will remain stable but above the five-year average, with typical seasonal variations on certain markets from February onwards.  

    Projected Outlook through May 2024

    The period from December to May includes the season A harvests, except for the province of Katanga. The continuation of conflicts in different areas will have negative effects on agricultural activities. In these conflict zones, poor households that were unable to engage in the agricultural season will depend essentially on agricultural labor from the middle-income and wealthy, and will have to obtain their food from local markets, which in the vast majority of cases will not be able to cover minimum needs. Food consumption may deteriorate, particularly in the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru and Nyiragongo, which are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and where the number of people facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will likely increase.

    As a result, areas in the east experiencing the effects of the prolonged crisis will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), notably Ituri (Irumu and Djugu), Sud-Kivu (Uvira and Fizi) and Nord-Kivu (Beni, Rutshuru and Masisi). The provinces of Lomami, Sankuru, Kasaï Oriental, Kasaï, part of Maniema and ex-Katanga, where households were able to engage in their typical livelihood activities and access their typical sources of food and income, will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. These populations have a longer duration of stocks (2-3 months) and have the possibility of consuming their reserves beyond two months. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are anticipated in the provinces of Haut-Uele, Bas-Uélé and Tshopo, which have not experienced major shocks. Additionally, households in these areas have typical access to harvested and wild food nearly year-round. In areas of the north-west that have experienced heavy rainfall and flooding, notably the provinces of Tshopo and Tshuapa, agricultural production and economic activities were temporarily impacted, and these areas may face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    From April 2024, the period coinciding with the secondary lean season, food access for households will seasonally deteriorate, as poor households will have exhausted their below average stocks from the previous season earlier than usual, and may develop negative livelihood coping strategies such as begging and selling productive assets, particularly in conflict-affected areas such as Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. All this just to satisfy their immediate food needs. As such, a slight expansion of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected in eastern areas of the country.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Democratic Republic of Congo Food Security Outlook Update December 2023: Continuing violence is jeopardizing the season A harvest in the North and Central-East., 2023.

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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