12 March 2010The United Nations today started to airlift urgent food aid for tens of thousands of people who have fled ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are seeking refuge in neighbouring Republic of Congo (ROC). More than 120,000 Congolese have fled violent clashes in the DRC since October last year and crossed the river westwards into the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR), according to a news release issued by the World Food Programme (WFP).WFP has been distributing food to Congolese refugees since the end of November, providing assistance to more than 59,000 mainly women and children. Today’s airlift – from Pointe Noire to Impfondo in the Republic of Congo’s Likouala province – will allow the agency to replenish food stocks with 600 metric tons of maize, pulses and salt, enough to distribute emergency rations for two weeks to some 100,000 refugees.WFP has been moving food along a road corridor from the CAR, as well as dispatching hundreds of tons of relief supplies on barges along the Congo and Oubangui rivers from Brazzaville port. However, it had to contend with low water levels on the Oubangui and insecurity which have posed significant challenges to the operation.“Getting regular food supplies to such a remote area has been a major logistical challenge, and we had no other resort than to start airlifts from Pointe Noire to beef up our food stocks,” said Alix Loriston, WFP Representative in the Republic of Congo.Since 15 February, WFP has been flying humanitarian partners from Brazzaville to Impfondo, and airlifting supplies from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other agencies. Earlier this week, the UN and its partners launched an appeal for just under $60 million to help some 110,000 DRC refugees in the Republic of Congo, the vast majority of whom are women and children, as well as 58,000 host families for a six-month period.