Mother of two, a domestic worker who lost work because of the coronavirus, washes her family's clothes outside her small tent on Friday, June 26, 2020. (AP)
The World Food Programme said Friday it was rapidly scaling up operations in DR Congo with millions facing "the world's second biggest hunger emergency."
The United Nations agency said it needed $172 million (145 million euros) to prevent millions from plunging deeper into hunger over the next six months.
"WFP is ramping up operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet increasing needs -- a consequence of escalating conflict and displacement, disease, extreme poverty, poor harvests and COVID-19," spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters.
"DRC is the world's second biggest hunger emergency after Yemen."
The WFP said that 15.6 million people in DRC were considered acutely food insecure, with a further 27.4 million deemed at high risk of facing a rapid deterioration in food security.
The situation was worst in the conflict-hit eastern provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika, as well as the central Kasai region, where up to 40 percent of people are considered acutely food insecure.
Byrs said malnutrition was pervasive with 3.4 million children considered acutely malnourished.
The WFP said it planned to reach 8.6 million people in the DRC this year -- up from a record 6.9 million assisted in 2019.
As the coronavirus crisis struck, the agency began providing vulnerable assistance recipients with up to three months' worth of food or cash, up from the standard one-month allocation.
"If we do not get adequate funding, we will have to reduce our operations, cut food rations and reduce the number of people we assist," said Byrs.
"This is a very worrying situation."