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CASE STUDY: WORLD FOOD PROGRAMMES

ACCESS CONSTRAINTS IN THE PROVINCE OF


KATANGA, DRC

Lucas Ribeiro de Belmont Fonseca


Warsaw, 2017
1. INTRODUCTION

During the first months of 2014, the province of Katanga, in the southeastern
region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, witnessed a stark increase in the number of
internally displaced people, reaching an outstanding number of more than five hundred
million civilians who fled their homes because of the ongoing conflict in the area (Brown,
Boyce, 2014). The clashes between government forces and separatist rebels, who aimed
to re-establish the independence of the mineral rich region that in the early 1960s was a
separate country, have led to this humanitarian catastrophe, which was also fueled by
ethnic tensions between the Luba community and the Batwa tribe in the north of Katanga
and by the spill-over of violence from the provinces to the north, mainly from the North
and South Kivus (Brown, Boyce, 2014).
Although burning of houses and cases of torture, sexual violence and forced labor
were also very present in the lives of people living in the region between the towns of
Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto the so-called Triangle of Death (Orr, 2013), most of
the international organizations, such as NGOs, UN agencies and MONUSCO troops, still
concentrated their activities and resources in the provinces of North and South Kivus, in
the border with Rwanda, despite the fact that, in the first semester of 2014, Katanga itself
was home to almost 20% of all internally displaced Congolese citizens (Brown, Boyce,
2014). According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(De Gruijl, 2014), During the first 10 months of 2014, a total of 15,873 incidents have
been reported in Katanga, a number that might have been underestimated, due to the
difficulties in monitoring insecure areas.
This entire problematic situation was worsened by the political disputes that
influenced the conflict in Katanga, given that it was the home region to President Joseph
Kabila and much of the political elite in Kinshasa. Another factor that made the response
to the crisis even harder was the fact that, in the years prior to the outbreak of violence in
the region, Katanga was seen to be a stable province, justifying the pulling out of
humanitarian organizations and the redirecting of international activities towards
development-related projects (Brown, Boyce, 2014).
Regarding the extremely difficult context in Katanga aforedescribed, the
following sections will present the case study of the United Nations World Food
Programme (WFP), one of the main organizations in the field in Katanga, whose aim was
to provide food security to the IDPs in the province. The WFP, however, was vulnerable
to the constraints created by the condition of open conflict between official forces and
rebel groups, as well as physical obstacles produced by weather difficulties and fragile
infrastructure. The humanitarian access constraints that influenced the WFPs work in
Katanga will be assessed under the light of the OCHA Access Monitoring and Reporting
Framework, a tool created by this UN body in order to collect and analyze data on
humanitarian access constraints. The assessment will include the authors analysis on the
responses given by the WFP to the challenges it faced on the field.

2. CASE STUDY

The World Food Programme was the leading organization providing food security
in DRC and, once the humanitarian crisis outbroke in Katanga, it directed its activities to
the province, due to the fragile status of the IDPs who fled from the Triangle of Death
area. This included providing food rations to the people living in shelters and camps,
distribution of cash and vouchers, supply of school meals and nutritional support to
children under five, despite the lack of sufficient funding to meet the needs of everyone
who was severely affected by the conflict (Orr, 2014; World Food Programme, 2014).
However, the challenges faced by the WFP, such as the alarming acute
malnutrition rate in the region (IRIN, 2013), werent restricted to the lack of financial
resources. Several access constraints made it difficult to aid workers to reach the people
in need. The first one of them was the unceasing insecurity in the Triangle of Death
region, where rebels and official troops clashed constantly and forced civilians to leave
their homes. The second constraint to the work of the WFP were the obstacles created by
the weather and the poor infrastructure in the region, where roads were practically non-
existent, especially in the rainy season. The third constraint were the restrictions on the
population caught in the crossfire between government troops and rebels and the constant
displacement these disputes consequently produced, making it harder to civilians to reach
safe locations and necessary support from the WFP. The fourth constraint observed
during the activities led by the WFP was the demand made by one rebel leader to restrict
food distribution only to areas where his soldiers were stationed (Graham, 2014). Using
the OCHA Access Monitoring and Reporting Framework, it is possible to analyze in
detail how these access constraints affected the work done by the WFP in Katanga.
3. ACCESS CONSTRAINTS ANALYSIS

3.1. Military operations and ongoing hostilities impeding humanitarian


operations

Regarding the access constraint created by the military hostilities between


government troops and separatist rebels, one must notice that the people who lived in the
area between the towns of Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto not only were direct victims of
the violence that permeated the Triangle of Death coming from both sides in the
conflict, such as having their houses burned, suffering torture or being victims of extortion
and abuse, but were also victims of the fact that aid workers from the WFP couldnt reach
them to provide necessary food, which was even more scarce because of the destruction
of agricultural properties by the warring parties, impeding small farmers of cultivating
their fields (Graham, 2014; Brown, Boyce, 2014). Without direct access to the people in
need inside the Triangle of Death due to security concerns, the WFP and other
humanitarian organizations needed to negotiate access with an increasing range of parties
in the battlefield, once the rebel groups werent unified under a single command. Even if
they could reach out to every single group involved in the conflict, as well as the national
army, this did not mean that they could access every area where people needed their
support (Graham, 2014).
This situation is described by the OCHA Access Monitoring and Reporting
Framework as its fourth category: Military operations and ongoing hostilities impeding
humanitarian operations. Although outside the Triangle of Death area the WFP has
managed to provide some aid to the increasing number of internally displaced people
(Orr, 2013), it was unable to bring enough food to the thousands of people in need inside
the region between the three towns (OCHA, 2014). In this situation, without the sufficient
presence of official forces to guarantee the access to populations in need in the region,
the solution found by the WFP was to frequently drive its aid convoys through Zambia,
at the cost of more resources and time (OCHA, 2014). The WFP and other UN agencies
in the field, such as the UNHCR, as well as DRC officials, called for an increase in the
number of MONUSCO troops in Katanga, in order to escort the convoys with
humanitarian aid (Graham, 2014; Schmitt, 2014). The claim was answered by the
command of the UN military mission in Congo, which pledged to add one more company
to the amount of 450 soldiers already stationed in Katanga (Reuters, 2014). The aim of
the UN troops in Katanga, however, was not to attack the roots of violence, but to protect
the civilians in the region and allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need (Graham,
2014). It is necessary to point out, finally, that the violence occurring in the region was
not aimed at harming humanitarian personnel or facilities, such as the fifth category
described by the OCHA AMRF, but the security of humanitarian workers still was in
danger in this different situation faced by the WFP in Katanga.
In DRC, UN agencies such as the World Food Programme have an advantage
when compared to NGOs: they have a direct channel of communication with the military
branch of the United Nations mission in the country, as well as an easier access to national
authorities. Certainly, assessing the security risks of providing aid in a conflict zone and
preventing them to happen is part of every organizations strategy, and the WFP is no
different. However, when you are supported by armed troops in fulfilling your goal of
providing food assistance to civilians, you can reach more people taking lower risks,
while also respecting core humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and
independence.

3.2. Physical environment

The second constraint to humanitarian access observed in the region were the
roads in bad conditions and the effects of the weather on them. Towards two of the towns
that form the Triangle of Death Mitwaba and Manono , the roads transformed into
a mudtrap in the rainy season, delaying the transportation of food by the WFP to the
populations who displaced to these two areas (Graham, 2014). Unsafe roads which
crossed high ridges forced the aid convoys to drive slowly and made the journey even
longer, as same as fragile bridges within the Triangle of Death which did not support
the weight of heavy trucks, forcing them to make long detours (Graham, 2014). In
situations of humanitarian emergencies such as the one the people in Katanga lived in the
first semester of 2014, any day wasted on the journey is one day less in providing
necessary aid to starving and malnourished children (OCHA, 2014).
The OCHA Access Monitoring and Reporting Framework classifies this
constraint as Physical environment, when obstacles created by both climate and lack of
infrastructure hinders humanitarian access. At first, the WFP personnel in the convoys
resorted to rocks and tree trunks to allow transiting in the worst sections of roads affected
by rain (Graham, 2014). With the aid of the national railway company, connection to the
northern area of Katanga was established (World Food Programme, 2014). Further
activities were carried out by the organizations which were part of the logistics cluster as
well as WFPs own road rehabilitation strategy in DRC (World Food Programme, 2014).
Once again, being a big well-known UN agency gives the WFP an advantage in
conveying its needs to national actors and in coordinating effective responses with fellow
humanitarian actors in the field, counting on the expertise of the people who work in the
logistics cluster.

3.3. Restrictions on, or obstruction of, conflict affected populations access to


services and assistance

When it comes to the third constraint faced by the World Food Programme when
trying to reach populations in need in Katanga, the WFP noticed that, of the total amount
of IDPs, not everyone needed the same kind of assistance. Some had already returned to
their homes, others were living in the bushes and, due to delays in providing aid, many
IDPs had been displaced again before even being provided with assistance (Graham,
2014). In the Triangle of Death area, the pattern of displacement was very dynamic,
because once a group of people fled to a particular village, the violence caused by rebels
would force them to displace again. That would also happen when victims thought that it
was safe to go back to their home villages, but then were attacked again. In these attacks,
civilians were victims of both the official forces and the rebels (Brown, Boyce, 2014).
Escaping from the conflict area would entail a risk of being mistaken as a rebel and being
killed by government soldiers, and vice-versa (Smith, 2014).
This is what the ninth category stated by the OCHA Access Monitoring and
Reporting Framework describes: Restrictions on, or obstruction of, conflict affected
populations access to services and assistance. This constraint affected both the WFP and
the population in need and required the aid community to direct more resources and
international presence in the field to assess with more accuracy where were located those
in need. This situation also required other UN agencies, such as the UNHCR, to provide
better living conditions to IDPs, such as shelter, water and health care (Schmitt, 2014;
Graham, 2014; Brown, Boyce, 2014). However, the solutions to this issue did not depend
solely on the will of aid organizations; sufficient funding was crucial. This is why, in a
situation of shortage of money, a helpful solution carried out by the WFP was improving
local economy through cash-based programmes and seed distribution, because it helped
communities in need to be more self-sufficient (Orr, 2013; Brown, Boyce, 2014; World
Food Programme, 2014).
There is no doubt that funding is a big issue if not the biggest in every
humanitarian organizations effort. Even UN agencies suffer from it and there isnt much
to do other than asking for more from donors. In the particular situation of Katanga, the
humanitarian emergency that was happening there was being foreshadowed by what was
also happening in the North and South Kivus, where much of international attention was
focused on (Brown, Boyce, 2014). This competition for scarce resources to answer for
mounting needs has one main victim: the civilians affected by conflict, hunger, poverty
and disease. What the WFP did is what it could have done in the small range of options
it had, but it demonstrates how necessary and, unfortunately, how insufficient in the
case of Katanga the attention and commitment of the international community to
address humanitarian catastrophes is. The example of Katanga is also an evidence of the
necessity of the UN and its agencies, especially the humanitarian ones, to improve their
efficiency and their coordination.

3.4. Interference in the implementation of humanitarian activities

The fourth constraint clearly observed in the Katanga province refers to an


incident reported on 12th February 2014, when a food distribution in the surroundings of
Manono had to be postponed because one of the rebel leaders demanded that it happened
in the area where his troops were (Graham, 2014). This humanitarian access constraint
fits the sixth category described in the OCHA Access Monitoring and Reporting
Framework: Interference in the implementation of humanitarian activities. Although
the rebels demand was not followed by the WFP, it negatively impacted the food
distribution and prevented the organization of reaching the population in need (Graham,
2014). Postponing the distribution was the solution found by the WFP in order to protect
the safety of its workers and to respect the humanitarian principles of independence,
impartiality and neutrality, always trying to guide humanitarian activities towards those
who need the most.

4. ASSESSMENT ON OCHAS AMRF


By the case study of Katanga, one may conclude that the OCHA Access
Monitoring and Reporting Framework, with its objectivity and clarity, fulfills its goal of
providing analysts in the humanitarian field with a tool to monitor access constraints in
humanitarian assistance activities. Gathering information and measuring data are the first
and more important steps in improving humanitarian work. However, one cannot ignore
the fact that monitoring constraints is not enough; it is necessary to prevent and respond
to them. The OCHA Access Monitoring and Reporting Framework would be even more
helpful if it provided humanitarian workers with guidelines or best practices on how to
react when facing the constraints categorized by the Framework.

5. CONCLUSION

One may say that the humanitarian needs in Katanga were directly proportional
to the size of the humanitarian access constraints that existed in the region in 2014. Both
natural and man-made, from heavy rain to security risks, the challenges the World Food
Programme faced in Katanga required a thorough assessment by the aid workers on how
to cope with these obstacles, how to respond to them and how to improve the
humanitarian assistance to an increasing number of civilians victims of the conflict and
of its catastrophic consequences.
Counting on its expertise and on its ability to establish contact with warring
parties, authorities, other UN agencies, NGOs and the MONUSCO command, the WFP
managed to partially overcome the main constraints it faced in Katanga. In order to
achieve this objective, it was previously necessary to assess the nature of the access
constraints and detailedly monitor their development in the field. This is when the OCHA
Access Monitoring and Reporting Framework demonstrates its great usefulness to
professional aid workers in situations of emergency, such as the one in Katanga.

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