20 December 2017

Congo-Kinshasa: Congo's Overlooked Kasai Crisis Sounds Alarm Bells

Photo: Unicef
An old map reflects the region of Kasai and a more peaceful time in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The out of date names in the other regions show how long this map has been hanging in this school and reflects the limited resources that are available to schools as they make do with old books, well worn materials and wobbly old desks. But the core of what they do, educating children remains the same. Ongoing clashes between militias and security forces have displaced thousands of families and left 850,000 children without access to basic services. Nine of the 26 provinces are now affected for the crisis. UNICEF estimates that in the five hardest hit provinces - Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Sankuru and Lomami - 440,000 children have not been able to end their school year last year, largely due to the insecurity in the region.

London — With millions of people on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was named the most neglected crisis of 2017 in a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of aid agencies.

Aid workers are particularly alarmed by a conflict which has unfolded almost unnoticed in the central Kasai region, creating major displacement and hunger in a previously peaceful area. Here are some facts on Democratic Republic of Congo and Kasai.

Democratic Republic of Congo

- 13.1 million people need assistance, an increase of nearly 80 percent since the start of the year, and roughly equivalent to the combined population of the British cities of London, Birmingham and Manchester.

- 1.7 million were forced to flee their homes this year, an average of more than 5,500 people each day.

- This has brought the total number uprooted in DRC to 4.1 million, Africa's largest displacement crisis.

- 7.7 million are severely food-insecure.

- The United Nations has appealed for $1.69 billion for Congo in 2018, its third largest appeal after Syria and Yemen, and more than double the amount requested this year.

- The areas causing most alarm are in the Kasai region and the eastern provinces of South Kivu and Tanganyika.

- Analysts fear growing violence could spark a repeat of the conflicts between 1996 and 2003, mostly in the east, in which millions died, mainly from hunger and disease.

Kasai

- An insurrection by the Kamuina Nsapu militia began after Congolese forces killed a local chief who was a critic of President Joseph Kabila. The political dispute has stoked ethnic rivalries.

- More than 3,000 people have died.

- U.N. officials say atrocities have been committed by both sides and civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence.

- At least 1.4 million were displaced at the peak of the crisis.

- Villages have been torched and hundreds of schools and health centres looted, damaged or destroyed.

- Fighting and displacement has disrupted farming.

- More than 3 million people are severely hungry.

- At least 400,000 children risk starving to death unless they receive urgent help.

Security improvements have enabled some people to go home, but many are returning to nothing. SOURCES: OCHA, UNICEF

Editing by Ros Russell

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