The World Food Program says it will start distributing food next week to 40,000 internally displaced people returning to their homes from camps around the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is possible that camps for internally displaced people in Goma soon will empty out. Currently, around 65,000 people are living in these camps. But, World Food Program spokeswoman, Emilia Casella says about 80 percent of them have expressed a desire to return home.
"The assistance is designed to help them resettle and work their fields during the current planting season," Casella explained. "And, families are also keen to return home because the new school year is getting under way and they would like to get back to their communities. So, we will continue to provide food assistance to vulnerable people who choose to remain in the camps."
Casella says only one camp around Goma, Mugunga III, will remain open because relatively few people in need of care will remain. The Goma IDPs represent only a fraction of the people WFP is assisting.
Casella says WFP is providing food assistance to over one million people in DRC, more than half are in North Kivu.
"The people in camps are actually a small percentage of the internally displaced people who are receiving assistance in that area … The vast majority of people getting food assistance in that area are actually in rural parts of North Kivu," Casella said. "They are not in camps and the food assistance they are getting from WFP is the only international assistance they are getting. Only about 10 percent of the displaced were actually in camps."
The United Nations estimates around two million people have been made homeless by conflict in the DRC. Many people have become displaced more than once.
The eastern provinces used to be a major producer of food in the country. But, ongoing conflict and looting of crops has turned the eastern Congo into a region that depends upon international assistance for its survival.