The Blog

Enough Food for Everyone IF: The Scandal of Hunger in the Congo

IF companies and government were honest about where the profits go from extracting the mineral wealth through mining, then more of these could be used to benefit the people of the Congo

"I have to go to the bush to collect firewood we can sell - but it's dangerous, I could easily be raped."

For Mwamini, the threat is real. She has already lost one of her four children while fleeing through the forest in terror after a rebel attack one night last year. Her six-year-old daughter went missing, never to be seen again. The Red Cross, who lead family tracing for the displaced here, say it's too dangerous to even go back there to search.

There were 95 cases of rape reported during December alone in Mugunga camp for internally displaced people, Democratic Republic of Congo. Those at the camp are living in horrendous conditions, with massed ranks of tiny makeshift shelters perched precariously on broken boulders of volcanic rock.

Most have been here since the conflict flared up again in November. World Vision has just distributed food there to more than 30,000 hungry people. This was only the second food aid they'd received in two months - a 15-day basic World Food Programme ration of rice, maize flour and salt.

"The food ration will help, but it is not enough. I'll have to share it with my husband who isn't registered yet as he arrived after us", Mwamini tells me.

I have been in the Congo this week as the 'Enough Food For Everyone IF' campaign launches in the UK. In a country sitting on around £15 trillion of mineral wealth and with such vast amounts of fertile land it's a scandal that so many Congolese are hungry and malnourished.

Here in the Congo the scale of hunger is huge. Almost half of Congo's 30 million children are stunted from chronic malnutrition. The lack of sufficient nutritious food in their early years means that their bodies and minds will never reach their full God-given potential.

For those displaced by conflict in and around Goma the food needs are a daily emergency. There are no reliable figures for acute malnutrition here - surveys are almost impossible when so many are on the move - but signs are being seen increasingly. In Mugunga we heard from the camp leader that they'd already had deaths due to hunger.

It doesn't have to be this way. Aid agencies are able to bring emergency food to those who need it. But we shouldn't have to do this. Even in somewhere as poor as the Congo people can produce enough food for themselves, IF they get the right help.

An hour's drive from Mugunga I met Benoit. 'The perfect IF campaign spokesperson, telling me of his ambitions to drive down hunger in the region.

Leading the way through the fields of his tiny hamlet to show us their crops of cassava, beans and tomato, he said the training he received through World Vision's Jenga Jamma project, which means Building Family', has been vital. It's helped them increase their yields hugely, where they harvested two bags of cassava now they get 15. Now, he has plans to set up a farmer's business association so they can improve storage and work together to transport their produce to market.

However life farming in the Congo has not been without its challenges. As soldiers fled the fighting late last year they took Benoit and others, forcing them to carry their supplies and to pick cassava leaves for them to eat. Benoit's spirit and optimism are undaunted though. IF governments invested enough in small farmers like Benoit, then there would be enough food for millions more like them.

IF companies and government were honest about where the profits go from extracting the mineral wealth through mining, then more of these could be used to benefit the people of the Congo.

Conflict in eastern Congo is fuelling hunger by forcing people off their richly fertile land. For Mwamini and hundreds of thousands like her having to rely on food aid or risk violence, the final and perhaps most potent IF is security. IF there is peace and protection from violence then our campaign against hunger can be won for children here in one of the world's toughest places.