International donors gathered in Geneva for a Humanitarian Conference on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The conference, convened by the United Nations and co-chaired by the Netherlands and the European Union, was a crucial opportunity to focus global attention on the estimated 13.1 million Congolese citizens who are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and protection. It also provided a much-needed platform to discuss challenges facing aid workers and provided an opportunity to secure funds for life-saving humanitarian relief. It was unfortunate that the Congolese government announced that it will not participate in this conference, and questioned reports of dire conditions described by the aid community. RI urges the Congolese government to reconsider its position on the displacement crisis. Since December 2017, some 130,000 people have been displaced by fighting, including nearly 50,000 children, in the northeast province of Ituri. Despite historical tensions between communities, the region had been largely peaceful for years. Sexual violence, targeted killings, and systematic destruction of homes and infrastructure are now widespread throughout the province.
With recent increases in fighting and resulting displacement in DRC over the past months, affected populations require immediate support, but a mixture of donor fatigue after Congo’s decades of conflict and competing regional crises have negatively affected humanitarian funding, with pledge amounts at the lowest levels in more than a decade. According to the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, $1.68 billion in funds are needed to respond, and, at present, only 12 percent of that target has been met. The plan would support shelter, food security, health, and protection needs, among other priorities. While we applaud the visits over the past months to the DRC by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and other senior U.S. government and UN officials, the crisis response remains severely under-funded and, if this is not addressed, the humanitarian consequences for the country and the region will be catastrophic.
Civil war and violence have long plagued the DRC, leading to massive displacement. More than five million people have fled their homes, with over half a million having sought refuge in neighboring countries where host governments struggle to provide for them. Recent violent clashes across the DRC have resulted in the deaths of thousands. There are currently 7.7 million acutely food insecure, including two million children who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Over the last year alone, violence has intensified as inter-ethnic conflict escalates, rebel groups attack villages containing innocent civilians, and anti-government protests increase across the country. In addition to the Kivu provinces in the east where fighting has been ongoing since 2004, intercommunal violence spiked in the Kasai provinces in 2017 in south central DRC and, most recently, in the Ituri province in the northeast. The numbers of displaced civilians – both internally and externally – are only expected to rise. And without an immediate increase in funds, the food security crisis will not be mitigated quickly enough.
RI continues to urge regional and international donors, including the United States, to:
- Commit to full funding for the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for the DRC;
- Show solidarity with those affected by fulfilling all pledges in a timely manner to provide humanitarian actors with the resources to provide life-saving aid;
- Press for new avenues of humanitarian access for aid workers to better assist vulnerable populations.
As violence in the DRC continues to spread, Refugees International will continue to shine a spotlight on the dire conditions in the country. We are committed to pressing for the mobilization of donor governments and the international community to address the needs of millions affected and displaced by the crisis.