The DRC is sinking into an ever more alarming humanitarian crisis

The United Nations and the Congolese government are seeking $2

The DRC is sinking into an ever more alarming humanitarian crisis

The United Nations and the Congolese government are seeking $2.6 billion (€2.4 billion) to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In a joint statement published Tuesday, February 20, Kinshasa and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) officially launched a 2024 Plan to mobilize international resources to assist the 8.7 million Congolese “ whose survival depends largely on emergency aid”.

In the east of the country, the inhabitants of the surroundings of Goma, caught between the army and the rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23), are thrown onto the roads and swell the ranks of the 6.7 million internally displaced persons. During the first weeks of the year alone, no fewer than 130,000 people fled different areas of Masisi territory, not far from the capital of North Kivu. Families are in dire need, sometimes having had to move several times.

This war, reactivated at the end of 2021 in a region that has been destabilized and weakened for decades, comes on top of several other crises.

Measles outbreaks

Severe flooding, considered by Congolese authorities to be "the worst in the last sixty years", followed exceptionally heavy rains in December and January in 18 of the country's 26 provinces, including Kinshasa. Nearly 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, as well as 1,325 schools and 267 health centers, according to Unicef, making more than 2 million people vulnerable, two-thirds of whom are children. Children who are already particularly exposed to outbreaks of measles which have occurred since 2021 thanks to vaccination delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

These disasters also aggravated an episode of cholera exceptional in its scale throughout the southern region of the continent, where diarrheal disease has become endemic for around thirty years due to climate change. While the DRC has not yet managed to control “one of the most serious epidemics in its history”, which in 2023 caused nearly 500 deaths and infected 52,400 people, meteorologists are announcing new episodes of heavy rainfall and of floods, favoring the spread of the Vibrio cholerae bacteria in densely populated areas, lacking a sanitation network and access to drinking water.

Finally, the country welcomes more than 520,000 refugees, notably from the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Uganda, according to data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Sexual violence

These multiple crises have resulted in more than a quarter of the Congolese no longer being able to eat enough (26.4 million inhabitants out of the country's 96 million).

“This superposition of crises is absolutely alarming,” says Emmanuel Lampaert, the official representative of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the DRC, who is currently working in Ituri (north-east). It is very likely that the needs assessment carried out by the UN and Kinshasa, completed in the fall, will quickly be outdated. The current situation in Goma demonstrates this. The health impact of the intensification of conflicts follows an implacable logic. For example, we are seeing an influx of injured people arriving that far exceeds the capacity of health centers. We have enormous concerns for the protection of children and women, who are very exposed to sexual violence. Especially since the DRC Armed Forces are supposed to take over from the MONUSCO peacekeepers, whose positions are closing one after the other. »

At the request of the Congolese government, the highly controversial UN peacekeeping force, which has been present for twenty-five years, began its "anticipated and gradual" withdrawal at the end of December, despite a final extension until the end of the year.

Faced with the seriousness of the situation, the United Nations and large NGOs on the ground deplore the "forgetfulness" of the international community, recalling that in 2023 only 40% of emergency aid needs have been covered . An indifference that the Leopards of the national football team denounced during the Congolese anthem before the kick-off of the semi-final of the African Cup of Nations (CAN), on February 7, by gagging themselves. mouth with his hand and pointing two fingers at his temple like a weapon. The players also wore a black armband as a sign of mourning.