Internally displaced boys in Mpati, North Kivu. Many internally displaced children miss out on education and boys often end up being recruited by armed groups. The Mpati area is currently under the control of armed groups. Photo: Christian Jepsen/NRC

UN ‘Level 3 emergency’ declared in DR Congo highlights scale of crisis

Published 23. Oct 2017
The United Nations’ activation of its highest level of emergency for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will allow lifesaving resources to be channelled to the under-funded crisis.

“This declaration puts the country on par with the three other crises currently recognised as L3 emergencies; Iraq, Syria and Yemen,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in DR Congo, Ulrika Blom. “The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear. The UN system-wide L3 response is only activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies, when the entire aid system needs to scale up and respond to colossal needs.”

The L3 activation is a tool triggered to ensure that the right capacities are in place across the international humanitarian system to meet needs and save lives.It typically includes enhanced leadership and coordination, reinforced systems, mobilisation of additional capacities and additional funding.

“The L3 activation couldn’t come a moment sooner. Our emergency teams have been on the ground in Kasaï since June. We face the daunting task of addressing a multitude of critical needs without the capacity to respond. There simply isn’t enough funding, coordination or organisations on the ground,” said Blom.

The L3 emergency has been activated for Kasaï region, Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces in DR Congo. Violence in Kasaï, Tanganyika and South Kivu has displaced more than 2.5 million people over the past year. Close to 4.3 million people are estimated to be facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity.

This is taking place within one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian crises, when at least 8.5 million people across DRC need assistance and protection. Close to 2 million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Disease outbreaks including cholera are affecting tens of thousands each year.

Funding for the country’s aid appeal covers just 32 per cent of requirements, representing the lowest level of funding in dollar terms for DRC in more than 10 years.

“Despite having the highest increase of newly displaced in the world in the last year, DR Congo was one of the world’s most underfunded crises in 2017,” said NRC’s country director. “DRC’s recognition as the highest level of emergency will hopefully bring in funds. But it’s paramount that funding is not shifted around the country, rather that new financial resources come in.”

A case in point is North Kivu province, which hosts the largest number of displaced people in DR Congo - close to a million. However, North Kivu is not included as an area of focus in the UN’s emergency upgrading declaration.

“While North Kivu may not have the same level of recent violence as the Kasaï region, the conflict’s unpredictable nature means this could quickly change. Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise. Lives depend on it,” warned Blom.