A displacement camp in Kalemie, Tanganyika. Photo: Gaele Chojnowicz/NORCAP

We are failing DR Congo - again

Oda Lykke Mortensen|Published 13. Apr 2018
The international community has failed to help and protect the people of DR Congo. 13.1 million people need humanitarian assistance, more than a double since 2014. Despite the situation getting worse, donors have reduced funding to the country.

"Haven't the people of DR Congo suffered enough? Millions of lives are at stake, and if not taken seriously, the situation could get worse. Donors must step up their support," says NORCAP Director, Benedicte Giæver.

In 2017, there was a dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situation in DR Congo and the UN sounded the alarm in October 2017, by declaring a Level 3 emergency in Kasai, Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces. This put the country on par with Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Now, 13.1 million people need help, but despite increasing needs only 10 per cent of the funds needed to save lives in DR Congo have been received for this year. 9.9 million people do not have enough food and 4.6 million children are malnourished.

The 20-year long humanitarian crisis we see today is a result of several conflicts in different pockets of the country. Some have lasted for years, while others are more recent. Estimates of the death toll between 1998 and 2003, range from roughly one million to more than five million people.

On Friday 13 April, donors meet in Geneva, Switzerland, to pledge funds for the crisis in DR Congo. Giæver says the lack of funding makes the situation intolerable.

"We have people ready to support, but there's no money to spend. Instead, humanitarian agencies have had to scale down their activities," Giæver says. "With the situation getting worse for the people, we need to step up the humanitarian aid, not scale down," Giæver says.

Children from Lungandu primary school outside Kananga in Kasai. The school was destroyed during the recent conflict, but UNICEF has provided temporary tents so the children can continue their schooling. Photo: Oda Lykke Mortensen/NORCAP

Increased needs and reduced funds

In the beginning of 2018 there was renewed fighting in North Kivu, and interethnic clashes in Ituri that displaced thousands of people. Additionally, the existing instability in Tanganyika, South Kivu and the Grand Kasai region, that had started to stabilise towards the end of 2018, are again showing signs of unrest.

"The emergency enfolding in Tanganyika province is of great concern. Our expert in the area reports that lack of funding is creating a difficult situation where humanitarians have to prioritize among the many urgent needs of the people in the province," Giæver says.

Women and girls are particularly vulnerable in this crisis. Last year, over a thousand rape survivors were identified and assisted by humanitarian agencies in the Tanganyika province, where 630,000 people are displaced. In the past four months, more than a thousand unaccompanied children have been identified but there is not an adequate system in place to reunite these children with family members.

"There are not enough emergency kits for rape survivors to prevent sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and unwanted pregnancies. Additionally, there is a lack of experts to help survivors heal from trauma," says Gaele Chojnowicz, our child protection and sexual and gender based violence expert, working for UNHCR in Tanganyika.

Cholera and lack of health assistance

The years of conflict have had its effect on the health structures and 10.5 million people are in need of medical assistance. The reasons are mainly due to the spread of cholera and increased insecurity in the eastern provinces, the greater Kasai region and in Kinshasa. Last year, a total of 220 health structures were attacked and most of them looted.

"700,000 displaced people are without health assistance in North Kivu and Ituri, due to security issues, inaccessible roads or lack of funding. People die of diseases which could easily have been treated," Giæver says.

So far in 2018, a total of 20 experts from NORCAP provide expertise to UN partners in DR Congo. They are building capacity, strengthening child protection, improving coordination, gender and protection mainstreaming and promoting international standards of programming.

NORCAP call on all donors to increase funding to make sure that the 13 million people in DR Congo that need help receive lifesaving aid.