Far from the Headlines: the Democratic Republic of Congo

The success of the national team of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the African Cup of Nations was an all too rare occasion for the population of the Congo to unite in joy.

The players of the male national team protested before their semifinal match by holding their right hands in front of their mouths and two fingers to their temples when the national anthem was played.

This silent protest was meant to draw attention to the situation in the eastern part of the country which has been ravaged by armed conflict.  Partly it was also a protest against the silence and indifference internationally on the suffering of the population.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has, twice in this decade, declared the situation in DR Congo to be the world’s most neglected refugee crisis.

Football tournament in the Bulengo camp for displaced people in North-Kivu with the support of WFP.  Mynd: WFP/Michael Castofas.
Football tournament in the Bulengo camp for displaced people in North-Kivu with the support of WFP. Mynd: WFP/Michael Castofas.

What is the crisis about?

UN humanitarian officials have voiced deep concern over the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) particularly in North Kivu.

Fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group displaced at least 130,000 people in different areas of the Masisi territory in the first weeks of 2024.

In addition DRC has been facing the worst floods in decades.

What is the background of the conflict?

The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa´s second-largest country and the 11th largest in the world. At 2.34 million km2 it is as big as Greenland and Iceland combined.

The mineral-rich eastern region has been plagued by fighting by at least 122 rebel groups and in some cases invading armies for more than 25 years.

Since 1996, conflict in eastern DRC has led to approximately six million deaths.

What impact does it have?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest number of internally displaced people (IDPs) on the African continent: 5.7 million people.

DRC has also the world’s largest number of people who are food insecure. One in four Congolese – or some 26.4 million people – cannot meet their basic food needs, and some 6.4 million of these are affected by acute malnutrition, a figure that has not decreased in two decades.

Four women die every hour during labour or from pregnancy-related conditions. The country also has one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates.

Flood waters have recently destroyed or damaged 100,000 houses, 1,325 schools, 267 health facilities and large swathes of agricultural land, leaving an estimated two million people, nearly 60 per cent of them children, in need of assistance.

The disaster struck at a time when the country was grappling with one of the worst cholera outbreaks in years. Cholera is one of the most severe yet preventable epidemics that take a significant toll on human life every year due to poor infrastructure, constraints to health access and  low vaccination coverage.

In addition to the very high number of internally displaced people, DRC also hosts more than 500,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.

MONUSCO has operate in DRC since 1999. Credit: OCHA/Naomi Frerotte
© OCHA/Naomi Frerotte

UN RESPONSE

The United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo consists of a peacekeeping mission and 22 programmes, funds and specialized agencies working together for the stabilization and development of the DRC, while providing humanitarian assistance to the most needy.

MONUSCO, the UN Peacekeeping mission in DRC was created in 1999. It is the UN´s biggest peackeeping mission with a staff of more than 18,000.

More than 25 million people in DRC qualify as “people in need“, according to OCHA, the UN‘s Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs. In 2023, 8.7 million people were “targeted for assistance“. It is estimated that 2.6 billion dollars are needed for humaniatarian assistance in 2024.

Children return to school after armed conflict in their village in Shabunda Territory, South Kivu, forced the whole population to flee and hide in the forest for several weeks. Credit: OCHA/Naomi Frerotte
Children return to school after armed conflict in their village in Shabunda Territory, South Kivu, forced the whole population to flee and hide in the forest for several weeks. Credit: OCHA/Naomi Frerotte

As of November 2023, the World Food Programme (WFP) had assisted 5.2 million people with food, cash, malnutrition support and resilience interventions across the country. In the context of escalating conflict, fluctuating food security and severe funding shortages, WFP is revising its planning to meet increasing needs.

In response to the floods and cholera outbreaks, UNICEF is providing drinking water, water treatment kits and health supplies to affected areas. UNICEF-supported cholera management teams are also on the ground.

What you can do?

 

For further information:

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