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June marks the beginning of the main season B harvests in the northeast and central-east regions of the DRC. Agricultural production is expected to be below normal owing to the combined effects of conflict and natural disasters marked by severe flooding along Lake Tanganyika and its tributaries, the effects COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and to a lesser extent, the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in North Kivu.
With the state of siege declared in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces and the deployment initiated by the president in eastern DRC, large-scale military operations against armed groups are anticipated. These military operations will exacerbate population movements in the area and continue to adversely impact the living conditions of populations already scarred by years of conflict. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the DRC currently hosts 5.2 million displaced persons and 2.2 million returnees, 64 percent of whom are located in the two aforementioned provinces.
The COVID-19 epidemiological situation in the DRC continues to deteriorate with an upsurge in the number of cases, particularly due to the presence of the Beta and Delta variants. According to the Ministry of Public Health, the DRC is facing a third wave of infections and is committed to tightening restrictions for all.
In light of the multifaceted crises in a context of below-normal harvests, and despite the relative lull observed in some conflict zones (Tanganyika and Kasaï), some regions of the country will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, the central-east and southeast regions, where some territories completed their growing seasons, will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Northern areas will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
Overall political situation: The political situation in the DRC remains delicate and the existing political divide continues to exacerbate community tensions and the level of insecurity in crisis areas. Despite the state of siege declared in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, the disarmament process intended for armed groups is slow to materialize, and these groups are remobilizing and perpetrating acts of violence against the civilian population. This political situation is unfolding in a complex humanitarian context, further hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has undermined the country’s economic growth.
Conflict and population movements: Continued displacement due to armed groups’ activity, ongoing military operations, and intercommunity violence in North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasaï Central, and Ituri are having a tremendous impact on the populations’ livelihood access. According to OCHA, from January to April 2021, there were approximately 309,857 newly displaced persons. To date, the country has a total of 5.2 million internally displaced persons, including some 2.2 million returnees and 527,000 refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring countries.
The recent escalation of violence by the armed group Allied Defence Forces (ADF) in April 2021 led to the initial declaration by the Congolese government of a 30-day state of siege in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces, and a new surge in military operations succeeded in routing the group throughout the entire month of May 2021.
In the Beni territory in North Kivu, over 60 people were killed in one month following ADF incursions into the areas of Kalunguta and Mutwanga. According to the Population Movement Commission (CMP), recurring armed attacks have resulted in nearly 900,000 internally displaced persons in this territory.
In the province of Ituri, presumably ADF militiamen and their allies have been carrying out attacks along the Boga road in the Irumu territory on a regular basis since early June, with hundreds of civilians massacred and 21,490 persons displaced, according to OCHA. In the neighboring territory of Djugu, there has been a resurgence in attacks perpetrated by militiamen from the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO), particularly in Fataki and Mungwalu.
In Tanganyika, Maniema, South Kivu, and Kasaï, conflict and intercommunity tensions of varying degrees have been observed in several areas, further disrupting livelihoods, particularly agricultural activities.
COVID-19 and other epidemics: The COVID-19 epidemiological situation continues to deteriorate. According to government data, the 7-day average daily number of new cases went from 92 on June 1 to 369 on June 20. According to the government, immunization coverage is also low, with a total of 44,840 people vaccinated as of June 21. Thus, based on the message issued by the minister of public health, the DRC is facing a third wave of COVID-19. As of June 18, 2021, over 37,519 confirmed cases have been recorded since the onset of the pandemic in the DRC, which continues to adversely impact household economies, particularly through the loss of and decline in income. This situation could worsen with the Congolese government strengthening current restrictions, which initially involves closing bars and cafés across the entire country and extending the curfew by one hour. These measures supplement those already in place. The vaccination campaign — which began in April 2021 — is struggling to convince the population. According to the government, as of June 25, 51,427 people have been vaccinated in the DRC since the launch of the vaccination campaign on April 19, 2021.
Eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano: On May 22, 2021, the country experienced a volcanic eruption in the eastern mountainous region, on Mount Nyiragongo in the North Kivu province, at the foot of which the town of Goma is located. On May 27, the governor of North Kivu ordered a part of the population to evacuate Goma and seek shelter due to the possibility of another eruption. According to OCHA, approximately 400,000 people are estimated to have evacuated the town. These internally displaced persons are distributed across more than 10 areas in the country (Bukavu, Idjwi, Kalehe [Minova], Kabare, Masisi [Saké], Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, Lubero, Goma, and Butembo) as well as outside of the DRC (Rwanda). However, activities which had been suspended for several days have resumed fairly quickly, such as banking services and schools. Some markets remained closed for a short period of time, and supply was momentarily halted while damaged roads were being repaired. According to a Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger (REACH) report, a large proportion of the displaced persons returned to Goma after several days, in particular adult men. However, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are reportedly some 350,000 people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Goma, particularly in terms of shelter; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); and food security.
Agro-climatic conditions: June marks the start of the season B harvests and the brief cessation of the rains, which will resume in September for the next growing season A. Rainfall was normal during the last growing season, which allowed for a timely start to the season, except for some areas which experienced anomalies with above-normal rainfall; this was the case along the lake shoreline in Uvira where heavy flooding occurred during the growing season. By and large, the current risk of flooding is low to moderate with the seasonal rains gradually setting in. Favorable weather conditions marked the start of season B with precipitation in the northeast and central-east regions. This encouraged farmers to participate in the growing season, resulting in normal sowing, except in areas impacted by conflict.
Markets and food prices: In the key markets monitored, staple food prices have remained stable or have decreased slightly in some areas. Maize meal prices remained stable from April to June 2021 across nearly all markets monitored, although localized short-term variations, based on the dynamics of supply and demand, have been observed, particularly in the Bunia, Kindu, Kinshasa, Mbandaka, and Mbuji-Mayi markets. However, maize meal prices have, by and large, remained stable compared to 2020 and the five-year average. Prices of imported staple food commodities, particularly rice and refined vegetable oils, have remained stable. This stability is due to the stability of the local currency and imports from neighboring countries. Conversely, rice prices have risen in the following markets: Beni (10 percent), Bunia (8 percent), Kalemie (10 percent), Kindu (14 percent), Kinshasa (18 percent), Matadi (5 percent), and Mbandaka (54 percent). These price hikes in Kalemie are especially due to the prohibition by the Burundian authorities of imports from that country, and the rising waters of Lake Tanganyika, which are flooding ports. This has caused a decline in marine traffic and, consequently, reduced import volumes from Tanzania via Lake Tanganyika.
Exchange rate: The trend toward economic stability observed in the DRC since the first quarter of this year, with an inflation rate of only 1.4 percent since the beginning of the year, augurs well for economic growth outlooks. According to the Central Bank of the Congo (BCC), relevant key indicators at the level of the market for goods and services have been stable since the beginning of 2021. The exchange rate is between 1,980 and 2,015 Congolese francs per US dollar. This situation promotes stable prices for not only imported products, but also local products and transport flows.
Agricultural and non-agricultural labor: There has been an uptick in global prices of raw materials and key DRC export products, in particular copper and cobalt. Non-agricultural labor is available in mining areas, primarily in the southeastern part of the country (Lualaba and Haut Katanga provinces). Households favor the mining sector to the detriment of the agricultural sector as it is more profitable. However, in the eastern part of the country, mining activities are disrupted by armed groups. COVID-19 restrictions at the Uganda border (Kasindi) have been tightened, making it difficult for small-scale informal traders and transporters to cross. These workers are gravitating toward other local opportunities such as selling wild gathered products, firewood, and charcoal.
Agricultural production (season A) and food availability: Since season A harvests were below normal across the entire eastern area owing to minimal household participation, particularly in active conflict zones, household stocks were depleted earlier than usual.
Household stocks for the last season B: The estimated below-average agricultural production levels for the current season will reduce the duration of household stocks to one month instead of the usual two to three months.
Malnutrition developments: According to UNICEF, severe acute malnutrition (SAM) above the critical and emergency threshold of 5 percent is observed in some provinces including Ituri and Nord-Ubangi. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) is 6.5 percent, and chronic malnutrition is at 42 percent.
Humanitarian access: Humanitarian access to the entirety of the population in need remains a major concern in the DRC. Operations conducted by humanitarian actors are limited or hampered due to insecurity, inadequate infrastructure, and the isolation of some areas in the country. However, although FEWS does not have access to the latest updates, assistance is still being dispensed wherever it is possible, and should improve the food security of many households, particularly among displaced persons and returnees receiving this assistance.
Current food security outcomes: Season B harvests in the northeast and central-east regions, although below normal, improved household food consumption in June 2021. However, some displaced households and those which have not had access to their fields for various reasons are forced to rely on the market for their food supply. These households are resorting to coping strategies so they can generate income and access food on local markets. Some will perform agricultural labor during this harvest period and others will resort to other economic opportunities that are possible in both areas (such as small-scale trade and premature sale of livestock, among others). Many households are, however, forced to use Crisis food consumption strategies such as consuming less expensive and less preferred foods, reducing the number of meals or the size of portions consumed, or reducing other essential expenditures such as those related to health or education.
Therefore, households in conflict and natural disaster zones (Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, and parts of Kasaï, Maniema, and Tanganyika) remain in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation. Conversely, households in the north and central-east areas are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situations respectively.
The most likely scenario for June 2021 to January 2022 is based on the following national-level assumptions:
- Conflict and population movements:
Ituri and North Kivu: The state of siege was recently extended to July 6. Increased military pressure will likely weaken smaller armed groups within the next three months, particularly in the Beni region and along the Goma-Rutshuru route, in North Kivu, and the areas around Djugu in Ituri. However, larger armed groups such as the ADF will likely avoid direct confrontation with security forces by infiltrating previously unoccupied territories, and it is unlikely that they will be eliminated. Guerilla-style attacks led by the ADF against government forces and civilians will likely increase significantly, above historic levels, giving rise to an elevated number of civilian victims throughout the entire military offensive.
Other conflict zones: South Kivu: It is likely that the current level of conflict will remain similar to that of recent months and continue to disrupt livelihoods in South Kivu, Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Maniema, and Tanganyika, particularly during the lean season.
- COVID-19 pandemic: Given that the vaccination campaign — which began in April 2021 — is struggling to convince the population, there may be concern for an increased number of cases in the DRC in the coming months. A certain number of measures have been implemented by the government, particularly a nighttime curfew and a mandatory negative PCR test during border checks. Moreover, neighboring Uganda has tightened restrictions following an exponential increase in infections. Tightened restrictions in the DRC and in neighboring counties should be maintained throughout the entire outlook period.
- Agricultural and non-agricultural labor: The mining sector should continue to provide direct and indirect employment in several areas of the country, particularly in the east. This should support food access in several areas. However, other sources of income are likely to be further disrupted due to conflict or COVID-19 constraints, including small-scale trade in border areas, since the measures restrict trade.
- Market operations: With the announced stability of the Congolese currency, staple food prices (imported and local products) on the country’s main markets will remain stable, primarily because the main supply routes will be stable and the markets are integrated. In the northeast and central-east regions of the country, it is anticipated that harvests may improve local availability and stabilize food prices on local markets, although production levels will be below average as a result of conflict and population movements. However, during the next lean season, a slight, typical increase in the prices of local products may be expected.
- Household stocks for the last season B: The current growing season’s production levels, estimated at below average, will reduce the duration of household stocks to one month instead of the usual two to three months. As a result, the next lean season will begin prematurely, with a possible peak in October 2021.
- Malnutrition developments: With the prevalence of SAM observed in some provinces, including Ituri and Nord-Ubangi, above the critical and emergency threshold of 5 percent, the coming period augurs population movements that will once again weaken the social fabric of the most vulnerable, giving rise to increasingly worrying nutritional conditions in these areas of military operations.
- Humanitarian access: FEWS NET does not currently have updated data on humanitarian assistance projections. However, it is likely that assistance will play a favorable role where possible.
Most likely food security outcomes
June to September 2021: During this initial scenario period, season B harvests will take place in the northeast and central-east regions. This harvest will undoubtedly improve the food consumption of agricultural households in these areas. For the first two months of this scenario period, these households will depend on their own production. Conversely, pockets of households, particularly among displaced persons and those who did not have access to their fields for various reasons, will have difficulty procuring their food supplies, and will rely on market purchases.
Provinces experiencing tremendous insecurity, particularly those where there was flooding, volcanic eruptions, or landslides in agricultural areas (Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Maniema, and Haut Katanga), will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as a result of the shocks provoked by these crises on household livelihoods. Meanwhile, the rest of the provinces in the east of the country will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and provinces in the north will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
October 2021 to January 2022: The second scenario period will see the resumption of season A agricultural activities and the lean season peak in November. Many households will have already exhausted their food stocks due to the below-normal production levels of the previous season. Heavy reliance on the market as a source of food supply will be observed. This situation will continue until mid-December and will likely be mitigated by the season A green harvests. Displaced households and those who did not participate in the growing season, already vulnerable in ML1, will therefore continue to resort to negative coping strategies such as reducing the number of meals and consuming cheaper, less preferred foods until the start of the green harvests in December, which will mitigate the households’ situation.
Without adequate humanitarian assistance, conflict zones and areas experiencing population displacement (South Kivu, North Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Maniema, and Haut Katanga) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The most stable regions in the provinces will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and the northern provinces will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
Events that could change the scenarios
Possible events over the next six months that could change the most likely scenario.
Impact on food security conditions
Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema
Worsened security situation
A resurgence in armed groups’ violence against local populations and the national army could increase the movements of populations, who would abandon their livelihoods. A larger number of households could enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) situations.
Provinces impacted by COVID-19
Lifting of restrictions to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic
A resumption of cross-border trade would improve the country’s food availability and traders’ sources of income. The number of people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situations could decrease, with more in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situations.
Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema, Kasaï
Further deterioration of agricultural access roads
Negative impact in the area that could jeopardize trade between territories and food availability on the markets, which would increase the number of people in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity.
Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema, Kasaï
Erratic precipitation during the growing season
As excessive or insufficient precipitation has an impact on agricultural production, it would decrease food availability and keep households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) beyond December.
Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema, Kasaï
Deterioration of the overall political situation
This situation could result in a general explosion of public demonstrations and the proliferation of conflict, thereby provoking new population movements.
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.