As the world turns its attention to the upcoming elections in Democratic Republic of the Congo this Sunday, the Norwegian Refugee Council cautions not to lose sight of the millions of Congolese men, women and children whose humanitarian needs have yet to be met.
"Regardless of the outcome of the election Sunday, the country and its leaders will have a challenging job ahead to be able to tackle the daunting humanitarian needs, and will depend on substantial support from the international community to avoid unnecessary loss of lives," said Pauline Ballaman, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This year alone, 1.4 million people have been forced to flee violence in DR Congo. At the end of 2017, there were already a total of 4.5 million people displaced in several parts of the country. The waves of displacement are mainly due to the re-emergence and escalation of violence around Congo's eastern frontier, in Ituri and the Kivus. More than 13 million people depend on humanitarian assistance.
"We must be careful that we don't paint a rosy picture here in Congo," explained Ballaman. "Our teams on the ground see horrific violence daily and we are often struggling to keep up with the humanitarian needs. The scale of the crisis and the lack of sufficient support leave many people in need without necessary assistance."
Compounding the complex crescendo of conflict and humanitarian needs is the second largest Ebola outbreak in world history, which threatens to spread further into eastern Congo if not contained. The outbreak has already cost the lives of hundreds of men, women and children.
Although there has been a security improvement for some pockets of the country such as the Greater Kasai Region and Tanganyika province where at least 1.5 million people have returned to their places of origin, security incidents have increased by 33 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to the International NGO Security Organization (INSO).
Additionally, there have been over 530 security incidents targeting NGOs since the beginning of the year, translating into two incidents against humanitarian organizations per day.
The needs in DR Congo are daunting. Over 13 million people across the country are living on one meal or less a day. A fertile country, of which 70 per cent of the population live on agriculture, is struggling to produce food because farmers are constantly on the run and cannot access their fields for fear of being attacked, kidnapped or killed by armed groups. As a result, local markets have suffered from food shortages while prices are skyrocketing, and 4.3 million children are malnourished. To cope women and girls are turning to sex work, while men and boys are joining armed groups for a steady meal.
- $1.6Bn were required to meet the humanitarian needs in Congo in 2018, according to the UN Humanitarian Response Plan
- Less than 50 per cent of the total budget required has been received.
- DR Congo is one of the worst and longest-lasting humanitarian crises in the world with 17 cumulative appeals for international funding between 2005 and 2017.