Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC delivers food to encircled town in Katanga
19-04-2001 News Release 01/15
On 19 April, in close cooperation with the local chapter of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the ICRC began providing food for the population of Nyunzu, a town of 13,500 inhabitants in northern Katanga province (south-eastern Congo). The area is controlled by the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD/Goma).
Nyunzu has been practically cut off from the world since repeated attacks were carried out by unidentified militia in the surrounding area last year. The poor security situation has prevented the inhabitants from cultivating their fields and put an end to regular trade with neighbouring towns. As a result, many people are suffering from malnutrition. Nuova Frontiera, an Italian NGO, opened some nutritional centres in Nyunzu last January, but despite this much-needed help the situation remains serious.
After carrying out a survey of the entire population in March, the ICRC and the local Red Cross got ready to distribute food (maize, beans, salt and oil), vegetable seed kits and household equipment (hoes, soap and cloth) to the town's isolated inhabitants.
The operation is a logistical challenge since Nyunzu can only be reached by plane and the airstrip is a small, sandy road. The airlift that has now begun is being carried out from Goma to Nyunzu by an ICRC-chartered Hercules that will make two deliveries a day (18 tonnes per delivery) for five days. A similar operation will be conducted in May to provide food for yet another month.
It is hoped that by the end of May it will be possible to harvest crops in the fields that are still accessible to the town's inhabitants. The I CRC will then reassess the situation to establish whether any further assistance is needed to tide the population over until the next harvest. Meanwhile, plans have already been made to distribute seed (maize and beans) for the next planting season in September 2001 so as to speed up the recovery process.