The BBC's Orla Guerin witnessed scenes of chaos at a refugee camp in Kibati outside Goma, as desperately hungry people surged towards aid distribution points.
Children were trampled underfoot and panicked aid staff were forced to beat back the heaving crowd.
Some who reached Kibati told the BBC they had more chance of getting food in the forests than inside Goma.
The UN refugee agency said camps sheltering 50,000 refugees in Rutshuru, 90km north of Goma, had been forcibly emptied, looted and then burnt to the ground.
Photo: Detailed map of rebel-held positions and rebel strongholds in DR Congo (Credit: BBC)
Source: BBC report dated Saturday, 1 November 2008 - Regional DR Congo talks planned - further excerpt:
The Rwandan and Congolese presidents have agreed to try to end fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda's Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila agreed to attend a regional summit after talks with a senior EU official on Friday.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband are due to meet the two men and visit Goma on Saturday.
The UN refugee agency has described the situation as "a total disaster".
Aid groups say they are struggling to reach 250,000 people fleeing fighting between government and rebel forces.
European Union Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said the only way to resolve the crisis was through a summit involving all regional leaders.
He said agreement had been reached on the prospect of a regional summit after two days of talks in the Congolese capital Kinshasa and the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
"They are both fully agreed on the idea of having this summit," Mr Michel told the BBC.
But renegade rebel general Laurent Nkunda had not yet been asked to join the talks, Mr Michel added.
A ceasefire is holding in and around Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, but aid agencies say the situation there remains highly volatile.
Gen Nkunda's forces are positioned some 15km (nine miles) from the city, which they have threatened to take unless UN peacekeepers guarantee the ceasefire and security there.
As diplomatic efforts to end the crisis gathered pace on Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called leaders in Africa, Europe and the US to urge them to "do all they can to bring the parties to a neutral venue for negotiations".
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the current African Union chairman, and AU Commission chief Jean Ping said the summit could be held in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam or the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Food, water and medicine in the city are scarce, and many international relief workers have pulled out after reports widespread rape and looting by retreating Congolese troops.
The origin of the ongoing conflict in eastern DR Congo is the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.
Gen Nkunda says he is fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attack by Rwandan Hutu rebels, some of whom are accused of taking part in the genocide.
The Congolese government has often promised to stop Hutu forces from using its territory, but has not done so.
There have also been accusations of collusion between DR Congo's army and Hutu guerrillas.
The Congolese government, for its part, has accused Rwanda of backing Gen Nkunda.
Rwanda denies this, but it has twice invaded its much larger neighbour in recent years.