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A concerning food insecurity situation due to multiple conflicts and climate hazards

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • June 2018
A concerning food insecurity situation due to multiple conflicts and climate hazards

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The activity of armed groups, ongoing military operations and intercommunity violence in North Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasaï Central and Ituri are resulting in continued population displacement and, in turn, populations struggling to make a living. At present, there are 772,052 Congolese refugees in neighboring countries – of these, 104,351 arrived in the first five months of 2018. This is in addition to the 4.49 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country.

    • June marks the beginning of the season B harvest of the main food products in the northeast and central east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Given the irregular rainfall recorded during the season and the latest population displacements from crisis zones, current harvests are thought to be below average, and stocks are low.

    • On account of the relatively low level of stocks following the conflicts and flooding in production areas, less food products will be available on the market and prices could rise during the lean season, which will arrive early (at the beginning of August). The volume of imports from neighboring countries during this period will be decisive.


    Current Situation

    Security: The humanitarian crisis in the DRC, one of the most complex crises in the world, remains worrying: from clashes between armed groups and government forces to conflicts between communities throughout the country. The situation is getting worse and spreading to areas that were once considered stable, jeopardizing populations’ livelihoods and gradually exhausting their coping mechanisms, especially among populations that had already been affected. For example, in Djugu territory, Ituri province, ongoing conflict between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups has led to wave after wave of people fleeing the violence in search of refuge in neighboring countries.

    Population displacement: By May 2018, 772,052 Congolese people fleeing danger had found refuge in neighboring countries, mainly in Uganda, Burundi and Zambia.

    Uganda alone has received just over a third of these refugees (285,000 people), with 104,000 having arrived since January 2018.

    Within the DRC, there are around 4.5 million IDPs and 541,702 refugees from neighboring countries.

    At least 13.1 million people (including 7.7 million children) are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, equating to almost 14 percent of the population. The DRC recently became the African country most affected by population displacement, with 1.7 million new IDPs in 2017, bringing the total number of IDPs in the country to 4.5 million (as at 30 May 2018).


    Irregular rainfall: Since the beginning of March, there has been heavy, above-average rainfall in the eastern part of the country, where the North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces have seen their crops flooded and road infrastructure destroyed. Nevertheless, Ituri experienced delayed season A rainfall between October 2017 and March 2018. This irregular rainfall has had a significant impact on agricultural production. In the rest of the country, rainfall has been fairly good.


    Agricultural production: The available data show that agricultural production during season A was relatively good in comparison with the previous growing season. For instance, there was a relative increase in overall maize and bean production in Rutshuru territory, although it was still lower than normal.

    Pests: In the far north of the DRC in Aru territory, Ituri province, the variegated grasshopper (Zonocerus variegatus), first spotted in March 2015, is still causing significant crop damage, especially to cassava and maize. Resources in this area are already squeezed due to the presence of almost 15,000 refugees from South Sudan.

    The presence of fall armyworm has also been confirmed throughout the country and is continuing to cause crop damage, especially to maize. A study is under way to investigate the impact of this pest on the crops it attacks, in order to anticipate how it will affect households’ food security.

    Furthermore, there are recurrent crop diseases (such as banana bacterial wilt and cassava brown streak virus) caused by farming households continuing to use seeds taken from infected plants for new seedlings. Every year, this results in a drop in production.

    Humanitarian assistance: This is mainly provided by United Nations organizations – namely the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – and national and international nongovernmental organizations working with the Government. The level of humanitarian assistance remains low overall – covering between 10 and 20 percent of requirements (according to UNHCR) – and it is still most concentrated in the central east and north of the DRC, where armed and tribal conflicts have led to renewed hostilities and a large number of displaced persons and refugees, as explained above.

    Food markets and prices: The price of foodstuffs fell slightly in May 2018 in the various markets that were monitored. The price of corn flour fell by 7 percent in the Lubumbashi markets between April and May. In the same period, cassava flour prices remained stable in the markets of Goma, Bukavu, Kalemie, Kabalo and Uvira.

    A price comparison between April and May 2018 shows a downward trend, but more stable corn flour prices in all the markets monitored (Lubumbashi, Goma, Bukavu, Kalemie, Kabalo and Uvira).

    Compared with the same period last year, the price of corn flour was rising in May 2018 in the markets of Bukavu (12 percent), Kabalo (25 percent) and Kalemie (72 percent). However, the price had fallen by more than 60 percent in the Lubumbashi market during the same period. During the same comparison period, the price of cassava flour fell in the Bukavu and Lubumbashi markets, while in Kalemie the upward trend continued (at 43 percent), and in Kabalo and Uvira prices remained unchanged.

    Compared with the five-year average, corn flour and cassava flour prices were on the rise in May 2018 in all the markets monitored, apart from the Lubumbashi markets, where they dropped by more than 23 percent.



    The most likely scenario for June 2018 to January 2019 is based on the following assumptions at the national level:

    Agricultural production

    • Rainfall: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) agroclimatic forecasts are predicting that rainfall will return to normal in the central east and southeast of the DRC from June 2018. Average rainfall is expected during season A 2018–2019, which should allow households to have a normal growing season, apart from in some areas of North Kivu (Rutshuru, Beni and Lubero), where above-average rainfall is forecast and there is a risk of flooding.
    • Crop diseases: In light of recurrent crop diseases caused by farming households continuing to use seeds taken from infected plants for new seedlings, it is likely that banana bacterial wilt and cassava brown streak virus disease will continue spreading and affecting crop production. Their impact will increase with each growing season.
    • Crop pests: Since 2016, the variegated grasshopper has been continuing, unchecked, to devastate a range of crops in Aru territory, Ituri province, and is advancing toward other territories in Ituri. It is therefore highly likely that during growing season A, this insect will gain ground, impacting the yield of the main crops, such as cassava, maize and rice. Although armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) has been attacking the maize crop for several growing seasons, there is no strategy to tackle the problem nor any support for implementing an adequate response plan at the smallholder level.
    • Growing season A: It is very likely that growing season A 2018–2019 (beginning in September 2018) will see a large-scale armyworm attack, since such a plan has still not been implemented at the country level.
    • Market supply: As the export restrictions on maize from Zambia have been lifted, imports of Zambian maize are expected to be above average and given the season B harvests that are under way in several parts of the DRC, it is likely that trade will remain stable in the areas that are only slightly affected by population displacement, such as the former Katanga province.
    • Food prices: Although season B harvests are below average in several territories in the eastern part of the country, some food products should be available on the markets in the southeastern and northeastern parts during the first two months of the first scenario period (June to July 2018). This will result in a degree of stability – albeit precarious – for food prices compared with the preceding months, with an upward trend during the second scenario period (October 2018 to January 2019).
    • Lean season: As the season B harvest is below average in several territories in the eastern part of the country, the food stocks amassed by households will last for one month to six weeks after the harvest. It is thus very likely that the lean season, which usually starts in September or October, will begin early (in August 2018). This could lead to poor households quickly developing survival strategies that are increasingly harmful.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    June to September 2018

    Throughout the entire eastern part of the country (North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, Tshopo, Haut-Uélé, Bas-Uélé and Ituri), the main food crops – including maize, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes and rice – are being harvested for season B 2018, while the main maize harvest in the southeastern part of the country (Haut-Katanga, Haut-Lomami and Lualaba), which only has one growing season, is under way. This will ensure that some food – albeit in small amounts – will be available in the region and will help supply local markets with staple foods, despite the climate disturbances and armyworm attacks on maize, which have caused below-average harvests in some territories (Rutshuru, Beni and Lubero in North Kivu; Uvira, Fizi and Kalehe in South Kivu; Kabambare in Maniema; and Djugu, Mambasa and Irumu in Ituri).

    October 2018 to January 2019

    As the season B harvest is expected to be below average, households will exhaust their stocks, which are expected to last less than two months. This period of renewed agricultural activity for growing season A, which will begin with an early lean season (end of August), will be defined by food scarcity in local markets. Between October and December 2018 (normally the lean season), households will resort to increasingly harmful survival strategies, such as reducing the number of meals and eating cheaper and less popular food.

    Figures Map showing internal displacement and refugees in DRC. Locations with greatest total number of displaced persons are the Kasa

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Internal and external displacement


    NMME forecast for June to August 2018 showing mostly average rainfall, with areas of average to below-average expected in the

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. NMME rainfall forecast, June to August 2018

    Source: NOAA/NMME

    NMME forecast for July to September 2018 showing average to above average rainfall across most of the country and average to

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. NMME rainfall forecast, July to September 2018

    Source: NOAA/NMME

    Title: DRC seasonal calendar Description: In the northeast part of DRC: cassava harvest if year-round. Rainy season is from m

    Figure 4


    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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