On Monday February 19, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock in his report to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) called for urgent humanitarian assistance for about 13 million people in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He also stated that over four million children in the area are suffering from malnutrition.
The humanitarian situation in the DRC is one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian situations. For many years now, the DRC has been experiencing political upheaval that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. Eastern Congo has been hit especially hard by this political unrest. About 4.5 million people are internally displaced and more than 700,000 have fled the country.
Civilians bear the brunt of the suffering as numerous armed groups, and in some cases government security forces, attacked civilians. Women, mostly young girls, have been particularly affected by this ongoing conflict. Widespread sexual assault by armed groups has been underreported and largely unaddressed. Furthermore, children continue to die from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Currently more than 40 percent of Congolese children are undernourished. Christophe Boulierac, a UNICEF spokesman, told AFP news that “We are not now saying that children are at the risk of dying, but we are saying that children are already dying.” UNICEF has so far been able to care for 65,000 children diagnosed with SAM, a condition known to frequently lead to death, Boulierac stated.
Conflict and insecurity in the DRC have produced fragility and endemic poverty. There is no access to clean water and critical infrastructure, including schools and health centres. Many having been damaged or destroyed. According to the reports by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there has been an eight-fold rise of severe hunger, leaving 3.2 million people in need of urgent basic food requirement support.
Insufficient funding is the largest single impediment to addressing the humanitarian crisis in the DRC. Mr. Lowcock stated that 13 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, and more than 4.6 million children are acutely malnourished. He also said that about $1.7 billion is needed this year for humanitarian programs in the DRC, almost four times what was obtained in year 2017.
Many strongly believe that until credible elections take place, demanding the full implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement between the incumbent government official Joseph Kabila and the opposition, known as the New Year’s Eve agreement, the prospect of peace is unrealistic. According to the US agency for International Development (USAID) spokesman Mark Green, “Expanding humanitarian assistance will go a long way in addressing the country’s greatest needs… [but] boosting assistance without insisting on concrete, measurable action from the Kabila government is the opposite of compassion.”