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June marks the beginning of the main season B harvests in northeastern and central-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Agricultural production is expected to be below average due to the combined impact of climate-related disruptions, including heavy floods in central-eastern DRC, the security situation and COVID-19 control measures.
Although the government has introduced restrictive measures to contain the large-scale spread of COVID-19 nationwide, the disease has already reached 13 of the country’s 26 provinces in three months, progressing at an alarming and concerning pace. To date, DRC has reported 7,039 confirmed cases, with a fatality rate of 2.4 percent. The containment measures, and travel restrictions in particular, have had a significant impact on households’ livelihoods.
Since April 2020, Uvira and the surrounding area has experienced torrential rainfall, causing floods and substantial damage to property. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 500,000 people have lost almost all of their food reserves and their livelihoods as a result of the floods, leaving them at serious risk of food insecurity. The emergency in this part of the country is almost certain to worsen, despite efforts by humanitarian agencies, whose response plans remain severely underfunded (just 12 percent, according to OCHA).
A fresh outbreak of Ebola virus disease has recently been reported in Mbandaka and Bikoro (Équateur province), just as the authorities were preparing to declare the end of the epidemic in the country. This 11th epidemic, which has already claimed six victims and comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, could adversely affect the quality of life and food security of households in the province, which is considered the breadbasket of the city of Kinshasa. The situation could worsen during the current lean season and as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, requiring a rapid response to limit the spread of the disease to neighboring regions.
Between June and September 2020, those provinces experiencing security concerns, displacement and natural disasters (Ituri, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasaï and Kasaï-Central) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as these shocks and crises affect households’ livelihoods. Other eastern provinces will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while northern provinces will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. Between October 2020 January 2021, households in Djugu territory (Ituri province) could be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) as a result of severe food consumption gaps and having exhausted all available crisis strategies, while other areas affected by conflict and mass displacement (Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Kasaï and Kasaï Central) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). More stable areas of the provinces will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while northern provinces will continue to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
COVID-19 pandemic and epidemics: The number of cases of COVID-19 in DRC is rising steadily. Kinshasa is currently the epicenter of the outbreak in the country, although cases have been reported in other provinces. Kongo Central is the second worst-affected province in DRC.
The disease is currently spreading at a steady rate to new provinces, despite restrictive measures imposed by the government, which has grounded all international flights, declared a state of emergency, and closed all of the country’s borders other than to trucks, ships and cargo flights carrying freight.
On 10 March, there was just one confirmed case in DRC. By 30 June 2020, the country had reported 7,039 cases, with a fatality rate of 2.4 percent. Some experts fear that the outbreak could evolve into a disaster in the coming days and are urging the government to review its entire epidemic control plan. The restrictive measures introduced to contain the spread of the disease have severely impacted household finances and the wider economy. The unemployment rate is rising in both the private and informal sectors.
In addition to COVID-19, DRC is also grappling with Ebola virus disease. The authorities declared the end of the Ebola virus disease epidemic in the Nord-Kivu province on 25 June, but a fresh outbreak was reported in Mbandaka and Bikoro (Équateur province) on 31 May 2020. This new outbreak could further complicate and undermine efforts to contain COVID-19, which is spreading rapidly throughout the country. For almost two years now, DRC has also had the world’s largest outbreak of measles, which has killed over 6,600 people in around 100 health districts (one-fifth of the country). Approximately 50,000 cases of measles have been reported since January 2020 alone, with over 600 recorded deaths from the disease.
Humanitarian situation: DRC is a vast country with one of the most complex and difficult humanitarian situations in the world. It is affected by multiple conflicts, with ongoing and sporadic outbreaks of violence, especially in the eastern parts of the country. This prolonged crisis now risks being forgotten as the full focus of attention shifts to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Population movements: Many Congolese households have fled their homes to escape the multiple conflicts and are fighting for survival. The security situation in DRC remains a cause for concern, especially in the east of the country. Thousands of people have abandoned their homes to seek shelter from attacks by armed groups and from intercommunity violence. The situation in the Bunia, Djugu and Mahagi territories (Ituri province) has continued to worsen since the clashes between the Congolese army and armed groups in late December 2019. This climate of insecurity has led to new waves of population displacement.
The situation in the Fube area south of central Moba in the province of Tanganyika has been of particular concern recently as a result of the massive influx of displaced persons from Moliro following the incidents on 13 March 2020 between Zambian and Congolese naval forces. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 1,435 displaced persons arrived in central Moba at the end of March 2020. In this area, household access to fields and other livelihoods currently remains limited, placing severe pressure on local resources.
At present, there are approximately 5.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in DRC, including 1.2 million in Ituri province alone. Since January 2020, many people have returned to their homes in several provinces, including Ituri (152,000 people, 49 percent return rate), Nord-Kivu (55,900 people, 24 percent return rate), Sud-Kivu (132,000 people, 12 percent return rate), Tanganyika (220,000 people, 12 percent return rate) and Maniema (20,000 people, 21 percent return rate). Yet supporting people as they return remains a pressing challenge. Most returnees have found their property, businesses and schools lying in ruin.
DRC is also home to over half a million refugees from neighboring countries, with fresh influxes continuing to arrive from Burundi, Central African Republic and South Sudan. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are currently 524,000 refugees and 2,264 asylum seekers in DRC. In addition, there are almost 880,000 Congolese refugees and asylum seekers in other countries in the region. Figure 1 shows both internal and cross-border migration flows.
Agroclimatic situation: The country has experienced climate-related disruption since April 2020, with torrential rainfall leading to floods and substantial damage to property in several provinces as rivers burst their banks. Since mid-April, heavy floods in the Uvira and Fizi territories (Sud-Kivu province) have claimed 43 lives, injured 145 people and destroyed an estimated 9,979 hectares of food crops and market garden crops, affecting some 39,910 farming households.
In these same territories, there have also been reports of substantial damage to seven irrigation canals with the capacity to serve at least 15,000 households. In addition, the floods have destroyed 175 km of agricultural service roads.
According to local authority estimates, the floods have directly affected approximately 500,000 people, with 78,000 people reportedly living at 38 IDP camps and in 5,000 host households.
The floods have also affected the provinces of Ituri (Djugu territory), Mai-Ndombe and Kasaï, where they have washed away hundreds of homes and destroyed thousands of hectares of crops.
Growing season B: This natural disaster in central-eastern DRC plus some northeastern and southern parts of the country has affected the season B harvest, which normally runs from June to September, leading to uncertain and well-below-average harvests. In the Ruzizi Plain, which is considered the breadbasket of Sud-Kivu province, harvests have been lost and food supplies are coming from neighboring areas with surpluses. In this area, seeds for the upcoming growing season have been lost. This situation will pose a challenge for the next growing season A, which begins in September 2020, with the harvest set to start in January 2021.
Nutritional situation: The current nutritional situation remains concerning, with increasingly high malnutrition rates relative to recent years in those areas recently affected by insecurity, COVID-19 and natural disasters. The latest Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) nutritional surveys, carried out between January and June 2020 in seven health districts, all revealed global acute malnutrition (GAM) malnutrition rates (weight-for-height) with a z-score above the 10 percent public health concern threshold in the following health districts: Minembwe (Sud-Kivu), Manono and Ankoro (Tanganyika), Basankusu (Équateur) and Bukama (Haut-Lomami). In Kamina and Bikoro health districts, the z-score was above the 15 percent emergency threshold. Meanwhile, prevalence of chronic malnutrition (height-for-age) was above the critical threshold of 40 percent across all health districts included in the survey.
According to the Nutritional Surveillance, Food Security and Early Warning System (SNSAP) nutritional surveillance bulletin, in the first quarter of 2020, 41 percent of health districts were under control, 44 percent required close monitoring, and 6 percent were on alert status. The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) report, published in December 2019 and covering the entire country, reveals a low level of minimum dietary diversity among children aged 6–59 months and pregnant and breastfeeding women (15.2 percent). This is one of the main causes of malnutrition, alongside cyclical and structural factors. According to the Nutrition Cluster, donors released just 20 million of the 189 million requested (just under 10.6 percent) to cover nutritional needs in the first quarter of 2020. Meanwhile, nutritional interventions reached just 271,254 people out of a planned beneficiary population of 1,282,800 (21 percent). In terms of spatial coverage, nutritional activities currently cover 24 percent of the country.
Markets and food prices: The Congolese franc (CDF) has steadily weakened against foreign currencies since the start of this year. The situation has been made worse by the lockdown measures introduced to contain the spread of COVID-19. At the start of January 2020, 1 US dollar (USD) bought 1,650 Congolese francs. On 10 June, the rate had depreciated to 2,000 Congolese francs per US dollar on the parallel market (a 21 percent drop in value). The devaluation of the local currency has affected the behavior of commodity prices, despite the government having suspended a number of taxes, including valued added tax (VAT) on imported commodities.
Cross-border flows: Cross-border trade has slowed since the border closures linked to COVID-19. Under the government restrictions, only food cargo is allowed to cross the border. This measure has paralyzed the informal small-scale trade sector, which was responsible for a large share of the supply of imported food from neighboring countries sold at local markets, including from Rwanda (via Gisenyi), Uganda (via Mahagi and Kaseni) and Zambia (via Kasumbalesa). Some informal small-scale traders have organized and joined forces in order to make grouped, declared imports. This is the case, for instance, in Bukavu, where small-scale traders have teamed up to supply beef from neighboring Rwanda.
Humanitarian assistance: The security situation has severely hampered the humanitarian response, forcing some humanitarian organizations to scale back their activities. In the past month, for instance, only around 66,000 of the 200,000 displaced persons in Ituri identified as requiring assistance were reached. The government-imposed restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 have made it even harder to reach people in need in this province, with aid workers no longer able to access Djugu and Mahagi via Uganda. According to the Food Security Cluster dashboard, between January and June 2020, only 2.3 million of the over 5.8 million people (39 percent) identified as needing assistance throughout DRC were actually reached, through either humanitarian food assistance or cash transfers (using various distribution methods). In addition, donors only released 10 percent of the requested funding. Humanitarian organizations are calling on the government of DRC and other parties to create an environment in which humanitarian assistance can be provided safely and reliably. They are also urging donors to increase funding for the humanitarian response in DRC. To date, only 11 percent of the USD 2.1 billion requested for the DRC 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan has been mobilized.
The most likely scenario for June 2020 to January 2021 is based on the following assumptions at the national level:
- Growing season A: According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts, the forthcoming rainy season is predicted to begin on time in September 2020 and bring normal rainfall for the start of the growing season. Some anomalies could occur, with below-average rainfall in certain areas of central-eastern and central-southern DRC, as shown on the graph opposite (Figure 1). The forecasts point to adequate and well-distributed rainfall, which should support crop growth. Overall, these forecasts should favor a normal growing season throughout the country.
- COVID-19 pandemic: As the epidemiological situation of COVID-19 worsens with rising numbers of infections and deaths, especially in Kinshasa and other cities such as Matadi, Lubumbashi, Bukavu and Goma, the government is expected to keep the lockdown measures in place despite their adverse impact on households’ livelihoods. The borders with all neighboring countries will likely remain closed for the foreseeable future, including throughout the outlook period, affecting the informal activities on which millions of poor households rely.
- Macroeconomic situation: Given that DRC’s economy relies heavily on foreign-currency royalties and revenue from mineral exports, especially copper and cobalt, concerns about the impact of COVID-19 lockdown measures on supply chain logistics and global demand could exert downward pressure on government revenue, slow the economy and reduce production of these mining resources. The government of DRC will therefore face declining domestic tax revenues. According to the Monetary Policy Committee, the Congolese franc will therefore depreciate by over 4.8 percent on the official market and by over 7.8 percent on the parallel market. Official estimates project negative GDP growth of between -1.9 percent (Central Bank of the Congo) and -2.2 percent (International Monetary Fund), compared with positive growth of 4.4 percent in 2019.
- Household purchasing power: Household purchasing power will be atypically low during the outlook period due to the weakness of the Congolese franc and households’ loss of income. Nationwide, the average nominal maize price for March was over 100 percent higher than the ten-year average. Similar trends were recorded for wheat and rice and, to a lesser extent, cassava. Inflation rose sharply at end the end of 2019, peaking at 7.54 percent in January 2020. Estimates suggest that it currently stands at around 6 percent, although it is expected to reach around 7 percent by the end of the outlook period.
- Livelihood trends: Having lost income due to resource-access challenges brought about by the COVID-19 restrictions and persistent security concerns, households will find it increasingly difficult to access income and food during the outlook period. In these circumstances, poor households may resort to harmful and in many cases irreversible coping strategies, including selling livestock earlier than usual, selling productive assets, and engaging in unlawful activities such as prostitution of girls and illegal mining. Households who depend on remittances will be affected since the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the sources of these remittances.
- Nutritional situation: The COVID-19 pandemic could worsen the nutritional situation of women and children, likely as a result of limited access to food due to higher prices, reduced availability of food, and lower income brought about by the economic slowdown. In addition, the delivery method for nutritional interventions will need to be adapted to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Humanitarian access: Access to humanitarian assistance is limited by various factors, and in particular by the COVID-19 restrictions and the security situation. These factors vary by location and season. The ongoing conflicts in the Kasaï, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika provinces are continuing to disrupt the work of humanitarian organizations.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
June to September 2020: Assuming that the COVID-19 pandemic persists throughout the outlook period, the situation will remain disrupted and all households in the affected areas will feel the effects of the restrictions. Moreover, given that current season B harvests are estimated to be below average nationwide, households could deplete their food stocks earlier than normal and poor households, who rely on selling the produce from their fields, could find it harder to access food. Households will use crisis coping strategies throughout the period in order to meet their food needs. Those provinces experiencing security concerns, displacement and natural disasters (Ituri, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasaï and Kasaï-Central) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as these shocks and crises affect households’ livelihoods. Other eastern provinces will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while northern provinces will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
October 2020 to January 2021: According to projections on the development of the pandemic, the second part of the outlook period will coincide with the annual lean season. Households could find it even harder than usual to access food after having depleted their meager stocks from the previous season earlier than normal. Households in the affected areas, including Ituri, Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu, could resort to even more harmful strategies such as begging and selling productive assets. During this period, households will use crisis and emergency coping strategies to meet their food needs, including prostitution, begging and illegal mining. In the absence of adequate humanitarian assistance, households in Djugu territory (Ituri province) could be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) as a result of severe food consumption gaps and having exhausted all available crisis strategies, while other areas affected by conflict and mass displacement (Sud-Kivu, Nord-Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Kasaï and Kasaï Central) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). More stable areas of the provinces will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while northern provinces will continue to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
|EVENT||IMPACT ON FOOD SECURITY OUTCOMES|
|Provinces affected by COVID-19 (Kinshasa, Kongo Central, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, Haut Katanga, Équateur, Kwango, Kwilu, Ituri, Tshopo, Haut-Lomami, Lualaba and Haut-Uélé)|
Nord Kivu, Sud Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema
Nord Kivu, Sud Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema, Kasaï
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|Evénements||Impact sur les conditions de la sécurité alimentaire|
|Les provinces touchées par COVID-19 (Kinshasa, Kongo Central, Nord Kivu, Sud Kivu, Haut Katanga, Equateur, Kwango, Kwilu, Ituri, Tshopo, Haut-Lomami, Lualaba et Haut-Uele)|
Nord Kivu, Sud Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema
Nord Kivu, Sud Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema, Kasaï
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This report is being translated into English
Source: FEWS NET/UNHCR/UNOCHA
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.