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Increasing displacement of populations hinders livelihood access

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • October 2022 - May 2023
Increasing displacement of populations hinders livelihood access

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The combined effects of insecurity and population movements in the country’s northeastern region are limiting household involvement in season A. Additionally, season A is experiencing below-normal participation, suggesting a less successful growing season with below-average harvests expected starting in January.

    • Violence is expected to escalate with the announced arrival of troops from East African Community (EAC) countries to reinforce the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). In addition to the 5.5 million people already displaced in the country’s eastern region, increased levels of violence and further displacement of populations from conflict areas is likely. Affected households are likely to abandon their livelihood activities, lose their typical sources of income and food, and have limited participation in future growing seasons.

    • Ituri and North Kivu provinces will transition into increasingly higher food consumption deficits as populations face escalating conflict. These provinces will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) with the possibility of some health areas, such as Rwanguba and Jomba in the territory of Rutshuru, and Drodro and Mangala in the territory of Djugu, having a subset of populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).  Populations in the stable north-central area remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) areas in the east-central area, where households will experience minimally adequate food consumption.


    Current Situation

    The security situation and population movements: In Ituri province, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have become widespread in the territories of Irumu and Mambasa, where they are attacking the population and disrupting socio-economic activities. In Djugu and Mahagi, there are opposing attacks by the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) militias against Zaire militias, who are fighting over mining areas and certain economic centers. According to the Commission of Population Movement (CMP), approximately 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) were recorded in Ituri province alone in September 2022 (Figure 1).

    In the neighboring South Kivu province, violence has resumed in the Uvira-Fizi-Mwenga highlands since the official announcement of the arrival of Burundian troops in August 2022 within the framework of pooling East African Community (EAC) forces. These new military activities have led to new displacements of local populations in this agropastoral area during the pastoral transhumance period.

    The security environment has improved in Tanganyika province over the past three years, made possible by inter-community reconciliation sessions. However, the security situation remains volatile and inter-community violence continues in some areas, particularly in the territories of Nyunzu, Kalemie, and Kongolo between the Twa and Bantu tribes. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that nearly 33,400 people have been newly displaced in this province over the past three months. In addition, as in the past, armed groups attacked during the harvest period, causing huge crop losses for households and a lack of seeds for the next season.

    Additionally, the conflict between the Yaka and Teke communities in the Kwamouth territory in Mai-Ndombe province is spreading to neighboring regions to the east. Since July 2022, community violence has broken out in Kwamouth and has spread to the neighboring Kwilu province. This violence has resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of burned houses. According to government officials, this conflict has displaced more than 35,000 people within the country. Approximately 1,400 people have also crossed the Congo River to seek refuge in the neighboring Republic of Congo. The areas affected by this violence are Kinshasa’s breadbasket for cassava.

    Economic overview: According to the Ministry of Finance, the DRC is experiencing good economic performance. This situation is the result of the surge in international raw material prices. Since February 2022, however, a fuel price readjustment has caused an 18-percent increase. As a result, the national currency has depreciated monthly by about 5 percent since late August 2022. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INS) data, inflation has also increased, with year-on-year inflation reaching 10.3 percent in August 2022. According to the same source, the local currency is depreciating against foreign currencies (1 USD is equivalent to 2,100 CDF) in several markets, particularly in Kinshasa. The official Central Bank rate also increased by 3 percent, from 2,000 CDF to 2,060 CDF/1 USD. This instability of the local currency is also causing price instability, not only for imported products but also for locally produced commodities.

    Market operations and food prices: Despite the growing season B post-harvest period ending in July in the central-eastern and northeastern regions, commodity prices have atypically increased due to the early depletion of stocks since August. With continued increases in world commodity and fuel prices, staple food prices remain 8 percent above those from last year and 40 percent above the five-year average. In the unimodal areas of the southeast, which rely heavily on exports, increasing price trends have also been noted. This atypical price increase is due to a combination of stock depletion since June, currently high transportation costs, speculation by traders on some limited imported products, and continued insecurity.

    Fuel prices and transportation: The government’s policy of subsidizing petroleum products in the DRC has caused difficulties since the start of the Russo-Ukrainian crisis. The government can no longer pay the larger subsidy to suppliers given high world prices. As a result, petroleum products are experiencing shortages within the country, causing speculation on the costs. This price speculation has significantly reduced transportation flows and driven food prices up, notably reducing poor households’ food access.

    A resurgence of epidemics: The DRC has faced increasing measles cases in several provinces during 2022. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 68,500 suspected measles cases and 1,002 deaths were reported in several regions between January and mid-June 2022, exceeding the total number of cases recorded in 2021. Additionally, a cholera epidemic has been declared in 13 provinces. This situation has led to increased health expenditures amid declining household incomes and could negatively impact food access for affected households.

    Agroclimatic conditions and agricultural production: The growing season started on time in September in the northeast and southeast, with the planting of the main food crops such as maize, groundnuts, and beans. Crop conditions are supported by regular rainfall with no delays. However, there is low participation by households in conflict areas due to a lack of access to their livelihoods as a result of displacement during the growing season.

    Cross-border flows: After two years of closure, the reopening of the borders with Angola in July 2022 and easing COVID-19 restrictions by border countries should encourage significant flows of imported commodities such as rice and refined vegetable oil. These flows are occur across the DRC’s entire southern area, namely Lufu in Bas-Congo, Kamako in Kasaï, and Kahemba in Kwilu.

    Humanitarian assistance: According to data from the food security cluster as of September 2022, distributed food assistance has only reached 3.3 million people out of a planned 8.8 million, most of whom are in the eastern and central parts of the country. However, coverage remains above 10 percent of the population in targeted areas.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    While the peak of the lean season begins in October, season B stocks have been depleted earlier than normal in July, making food access more difficult for households. This situation is the case in several provinces experiencing conflicts (Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Tanganyika), as well as in other post-conflict provinces (Kasaï, Kasaï-Central, and Kasaï-Oriental). There have been significant population movements in the Djugu territory in Ituri and Rutshuru in North Kivu, resulting in Crisis (IPC Phase) outcomes due to prolonged food consumption deficits and  insufficient humanitarian assistance. FEWS NET expects a small proportion of the population to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), primarily in the areas of Mungwalu and Drodro (Ituri) and Rwanguba (North Kivu), with other more stable areas in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and the northern provinces in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).


    The most likely scenario for food security from October 2022 to May 2023 is based on the following fundamental assumptions, in relation to the changing national context:

    • Conflicts and population movements in Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu: Violence will likely continue at unusually high levels in Ituri and North Kivu as the M23 attempts to consolidate territorial gains in the Rutshuru territory. Internal displacement is expected to exceed levels seen in 2022. The imminent launch of joint FARDC operations with troops from East African countries against armed groups could increase violence against the population.
    • In Tanganyika, Kasaï, Kasaï-Central, and Maniema provinces, the intensity of inter-community conflicts will remain similar to levels witnessed in August and September 2022; and will continue to disrupt people’s sources of income. In Mai-Ndombe province, continued hostilities would impact the resumption of the growing season and disrupt the livelihoods of affected populations.
    • Agroclimatic conditions and agricultural production: Based on the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) and Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) forecast models and climate modes, average rainfall is most likely between October and December 2022 in the DRC. The same sources report that during the 2022/23 growing season, rains will be late and below average in the unimodal zone of southeastern DRC and may cause a delayed start to planting. However, based on history and the accumulations that the area typically receives, this will have a minor impact on production in the southeast.
    • Agricultural production (season A) and food availability: Normal growing seasons could be expected in the central and western parts of the country. In the south and southeast parts of the country, below-normal rainfall will jeopardize unimodal production, and crops expected in March will be below average. Despite rainfall promoting normal crop development in the eastern part of the country, continued insecurity will limit household participation in growing season A due to displacement and low household participation in field activities, resulting in production lower than normal and lower than the previous season.
    • National economic situation: With a positive economic outlook observed in the mining sector and the surge in raw material prices, a high-performing mining sector is expected, along with increased needs for mining labor. This performance would improve the income of households living in mining areas.
    • Fuel prices and transportation: The government’s fuel subsidy will continue to be insufficient amid fuel price increases on the international market. As a result, speculation is expected on the prices of petroleum products, in addition to consequent shortages in the coming months. This would impact transportation costs and, consequently, the cost of food, thus limiting poor households’ access to basic foodstuffs.
    • The resurgence of epidemics: Given the DRC’s environmental sanitation, health environment, and low immunization rates, it is highly likely that measles will spread to several provinces in the country during the projected period. Cholera has become endemic, given poor access to drinking water in several areas of the country. A decline in agricultural participation by epidemic-affected households is expected.
    • Market operations and food prices: With the heavy dependence on food imports and the current lean season, during which households will depend primarily on purchases at the markets, the prices of staple foods such as maize flour, beans, and their substitutes, such as rice, may increase. Beginning in December with the expected green harvests, a downward trend may be observed until the end of February, at which time prices will experience seasonal variations between March and May 2023, the agricultural recovery period for the B season. However, prices will remain above average over the projected period. Markets will continue to operate normally except in areas of conflict, where insecurity is disrupting market supply and operations.
    • Temporary agricultural work: Based on recent trends in population movements in conflict zones during this agricultural recovery period, displaced poor households in Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces will provide a ready labor supply for middle-income and wealthy households, especially during this period. This increased labor supply could lead to declining participation in poor household growing season activities,  reducing access to income and food. In other parts of the country, the supply of temporary agricultural work will remain normal.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Considering the low mobilization of funds estimated at 10.3 percent of the needs expressed during 2022, this low food assistance coverage is expected to continue during the projection period. According to data from the food security cluster, distributed food assistance reached only 25.9 percent of targeted needs as of September 2022 and remained significantly below 20 percent of the population in targeted areas.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    October 2022 to January 2023: At the peak of the lean season in October and November, when household stocks are low or depleted, households will have difficulty accessing food. As a result, household food consumption will change with this depletion. Food access and household consumption will improve starting in mid-December with the seasonal green harvests and the first harvests of the growing season in January, but not enough to fill household consumption gaps. Some areas, including Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Tanganyika provinces, may continue to suffer the effects of conflict, with below-average agricultural production and consumption deficits, and may remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Households in the Lomami, Sankuru, and Kasaï-Oriental provinces will have minimally adequate food consumption but will not be able to afford certain non-food expenditures and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity. On the other hand, Haut-Uélé, Bas-Uélé, Tshopo, and part of Maniema provinces, will have minimally adequate food consumption and will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, while the Centre-Sud and southeast, mainly Maniema, South Kivu, and Ex-Katanga, will worsen to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    February to May 2023: The availability of stocks from the season’s harvests will be expected in the first two months of the second scenario period. However, these harvests will be below average in the conflict areas as a result of population movements in the conflict areas and in the southeast due to poor rainfall distribution. Therefore, during the short season B lean season in April and May, households will continue to experience food consumption deficits in some areas and may remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), especially in Ituri, South Kivu, and North Kivu. On the other hand, Lomami, Sankuru, and Kasaï-Oriental provinces, which had an almost normal growing season with stable security and good rainfall, will have minimally adequate consumption and will be facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Haut-Uélé, Bas-Uélé, Tshopo, and part of Maniema provinces, which have no consumption deficits, will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity to the extent that households are able to cover their essential food and non-food needs without engaging in atypical or unsustainable strategies to access food and income.

    Global acute malnutrition (GAM) changes: The Standardized Monitoring and Assessment for Relief and Transitions (SMART) nutrition surveys conducted in 2022 indicate a concerning nutritional situation. Out of the 18 zones surveyed, five zones (28 percent) had an overall rate of alert malnutrition (GAM greater than 10 percent), and only two zones (11 percent) had an overall rate of acceptable malnutrition. Additionally, these survey results show that security-stable areas are as affected by malnutrition as unstable areas with population displacements and other recent shocks. Therefore, the nutritional situation will remain a concern during the projection period in most of the country’s provinces.

    Events That Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events in the next eight months that could change the most likely scenario.



    Further increase in fuel prices

    Prices for petroleum products could eventually lead to higher prices for staple foods and reduced imported food access for poor households.

     Major rainfall disruptions in the east and west

    Given the gaps in agricultural production that the country has experienced over the years, excess and/or deficient rainfall could impact the next crop cycle during the growing seasons and exacerbate already-precarious agricultural conditions.

    Ituri, North Kivu, Sout Kivu

    Total victory of the national army over the armed groups and significant surrender among multiple armed groups

    Pooling forces with EAC armies could facilitate the success of the current military operations, help reduce numbers among several armed groups, and promote a massive return of populations to their places of origin. The return of households would promote the resumption of agricultural activities and other livelihoods.

    North Kivu and South Kivu

    Worsened Ebola epidemic in Uganda

    With the Ebola virus declared an epidemic in neighboring Uganda in September 2022, a worsening situation could result in the closure of borders with other countries. In this case, the cross-border flow and the availability of products to markets, as well as household access to these products, could be reduced.



    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.


    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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