North Kivu — Alarm bells ring as violence by hundreds of armed groups worsens in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Despite 13 million people now needing emergency assistance, the aid response falls far from meeting even minimum lifesaving needs in worst affected areas.
"World leaders and public attention have failed to grasp that Congo's wars have returned on an enormous scale. Armed men attack and abuse defenseless women and children every day, displacing millions," said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refuge Council (NRC), on a visit to eastern DRC.
"While it's not easy to stop violence by hundreds of armed groups, it's inexplicable and shameful that we aren't providing the bare minimum assistance for the 4.5 million internally displaced people who've fled for their lives," Egeland said.
Despite having the largest number of people newly displaced in the world in both 2016 and 2017, aid operations in DRC only received 52 per cent of money needed over the past year. Relief agencies are underfunded and overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of this mega-crisis.
Only two months into 2018, and North Kivu province is returning as a hotspot in the crisis. A resurgence of inter-communal fighting and violent clashes between armed groups caused a dangerous spike in displacement in 2017. Some 1.2 million people are now displaced in the province - the highest number in any area in the country.
"Despite the resurgence of violence in North Kivu, critical funding is being pulled out of the province and into other areas, deemed by the UN as higher priority. Aid agencies are forced to juggle dwindling resources. It's a life-threatening lottery on who wins and who loses - with lethal stakes. Areas that lose face sickness, disease and ultimately death," said Egeland.
"The priority for DRC is a massive scale-up of funding and of aid workers in conflict areas, including North Kivu. Otherwise, the humanitarian community won't be able to cope and will face certain calamity. We are already overwhelmed by what feels like a continent of crises, and we as humanitarians are so few and with no means to help.
In recent weeks, a spike in number of Congolese fleeing violence into Uganda has highlighted that the conflict is spreading to become a regional crisis. DRC is one of the worst crises on earth, yet no one seems to care about it," Egeland said.