A top United Nations relief official today urged a greater response to tackle the major humanitarian needs being experienced in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where over two million people have been displaced by fighting.
"The fact that there are now 2.4 million IDPs [internally displaced persons] in the DRC, including more than 1.6 million in the Kivus, is a very bleak illustration of the dire humanitarian situation the country is facing," the Director of Operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.
Mr. Ging - who spent a week in late October in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu to assess the situation - noted that the UN and its partners have appealed for $791 million to provide life-saving assistance to DRC this year and have so far only received $429 million. "More funding is urgently and desperately needed," he stressed.
The Kivus have seen increased fighting since earlier this year between Government troops, with the support of peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and the March 23 Movement (M23), which is composed of soldiers from the DRC's national army who mutinied in April. In addition to causing major internal displacement, the fighting - as well as that involving other armed groups - has also led to many people fleeing to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.
"Eastern DRC has been hit this year by massive humanitarian needs triggered by the rise of the M23 rebel group and violence by more than two dozen other armed groups across the region, with widespread abuses against civilians including murder, rape and brutal reprisals," said Mr. Ging.
"As armed groups proliferate in the Kivus, it is the people who suffer: men are massacred, women are raped and children are forcibly recruited, while villages are looted and destroyed," he added.
The current emergency adds to what are already major humanitarian needs in the DRC, Mr. Ging said. Among the challenges the country faces are 4.5 million people who are suffering from food insecurity; one million children under five who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition; and 27,000 cholera cases this year.
"It is crucial that we continue to step up our interventions and protect people," Mr. Ging said. "We need a larger humanitarian response."
The UN is providing a huge amount of humanitarian aid to the people of eastern DRC, despite problems with access because of the volatile security situation. At the same time, Mr. Ging noted that the humanitarian challenge is ever-growing and "quite overwhelming."
While the humanitarian needs in the DRC have risen consistently in recent years, funding for the relief response has decreased steadily since 2009, according to OCHA, with annual contributions falling from $541 million in 2008 to $391 million in 2011.