WFP’s Immediate Response Account — saving lives in the Kasai region of DRC

Funding facility allows for scale-up of emergency operation

World Food Programme
World Food Programme Insight
4 min readMar 8, 2018


In mid-2016, widespread inter-ethnic tensions and conflict descended on the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), claiming countless lives and causing massive displacement. The Kasai crisis unfolded within a country already struggling with a protracted and underfunded emergency in the east. Since the emergence of the Kasai crisis, funding shortfalls proved to be a major challenge to WFP’s response.

The scale of the food security and nutrition crisis in Kasai is immense. In September 2017, the World Food Programme (WFP)’s Emergency Food Security Assessment found that there were 3.2 million severely food insecure people in this region alone. In addition, 400,000 children are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition without urgent life-saving assistance.

Farmers have now missed three consecutive planting seasons, a direct result of continued conflict and displacement, leaving people with almost nothing to eat. Yet still, the international community has struggled to mobilize the minimum resources necessary to save lives, enable return, and restore once productive livelihoods. Without urgent action, Kasai could turn into a protracted emergency.

Enabling lifesaving assistance: the Immediate Response Account

Having declared Kasai a corporate Level 3 Emergency, WFP embarked on a major scale up. Its operation increased tenfold from 40,000 to almost 400,000 beneficiaries from September to December. This expansion continues in 2018, with the aim of reaching more than one million people by the end of June.

The Kasai operation was made possible by the Immediate Response Account (IRA). This is an internal WFP mechanism to allocate funds to emergencies. IRA accounted for more than 43 percent of resources spent by WFP in Kasai in 2017. In total, US$38 million was advanced from the IRA to Kasai, some 27 percent of IRA allocations worldwide.

In 2017, the IRA totaled US$32.7 million, thanks to the generous contributions from 12 Member States: Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.

IRA achievements in Kasai

The Immediate Response Account enabled WFP to put in place the key building blocks of its emergency operation in Kasai. First, the IRA allowed WFP to procure and transport more than 19,000 tonnes of food and US$750,000 of Cash for Kasai. Second, IRA enabled WFP and its partners to assist 400,000 people in the most food insecure areas. Third, IRA ensured critical nutrition assistance for 44,000 children and pregnant & lactating women.

With the help of IRA, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and direct donor contributions, WFP continues to scale-up its response in the Kasai. The IRA’s March 2018 allocation of US$10 million will allow WFP to procure additional food commodities locally and transport these to Kasai at reduced cost and time. Without support from IRA, WFP could not progress towards the target of reaching 1.2 million people by June 2018.

The IRA has enabled WFP to remain accountable to affected populations and to continue assisting them through this dire period of need. At least US$48 million are urgently required to replenish the IRA for it to continue supporting emergencies around the world.

The case of Dibaya

Dibaya is a village located 94 kms from Kananga, Kasai Central Province. Between February and June last year, repeated violent attacks occurred. People were killed and houses burned down, forcing survivors to flee to the forest. In the forest, people ate whatever they could find, such as manioc, a starchy root vegetable, and leaves. People gradually returned to their villages during the second half of the year, when the state authorities told them security had been restored. However, upon their return, they found that everything had been lost, with houses destroyed and villages looted.

During the first cycle of distribution financed by the IRA, some 4,000-people received 30 tonnes of food (maize flour, beans, oil and salt). A local woman said it was the first time she could eat maize fufu, a dietary stable, for a very long time. After a year of war and deprivation that has severely affected their livelihoods, receiving healthy, nutritious food was a first step towards normality for many families.

In February, WFP’s in-kind food assistance reached 422,400 beneficiaries, the highest number of general food distribution beneficiaries since the beginning of the operation. Photo: WFP/Tara Crossley
Purchases after the cash distribution in Kajiba, Kasai central province. Photo: WFP/Tara Crossley

IRA funds spent on cash distribution in Kajiba

Kajiba is a village located 80 kms from Kananga, Kasai Central Province. Rose Kuteke Ilunga hid in the forest for almost a year after her village was attacked in 2016. Her house was burned down and she is now staying with relatives. She said it was very difficult to survive in the forest. She only ate cassava and leaves. Her malnourished grandson perished.

As a WFP beneficiary, Rose received 120,000 Congolese francs (USD$75) for her six-person household. The distribution took place in February. She bought beans, cassava, milk and groundnuts. With what is left over, she will buy rice. She explained that the local market is much better supplied in March compared to a few months ago. Cash is therefore the preferred form of assistance.

Another beneficiary of cash assistance is Chantal Luabo, who buys powder milk, soap and salt at the local grocery. “I’m glad about this cash because I can also buy some things that are not locally produced” she explains. All in all, some 90 percent of the cash she spent went to buy food for her 10 person household.

— Written by Jacques David



World Food Programme
World Food Programme Insight

The United Nations World Food Programme works towards a world of Zero Hunger.