Topic: Note on the International NGOs perspectives on the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo
With regards to the recently launched Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) 2022, reflecting a coordinated appeal of humanitarian actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), members of the International NGO Forum in the country, gathering 117 International emergency-, development-, and peace building organizations, wishes to share some perspectives on the humanitarian situation and on opportunities for governments’ and donors’ action to alleviate the plight of people in need in the DRC.
The severity of the needs must be recognized and matched by funding and political commitment. To reduce humanitarian needs, and to ensure sustainable impact in the long run, it is of paramount importance to not only raise funds but to strengthen the links between emergency response, development aid, and peacebuilding efforts and to invest in both rapid response and longer-term approaches that can address medium and long-term effects of food security crises and build resilience and stability.
Humanitarian actors need stronger support by governments and donors to overcome operational challenges. For humanitarian actions to matter, impediments to humanitarian operations must be solved, humanitarian staff need to be protected and humanitarian space and principles need to be safeguarded.
The severity of the needs must be recognized and matched by funding and political commitment
According to the HRP that was launched on 17th February 2022, 27 million people are in humanitarian need in the DRC this year, and 1.88 billion USD is required to respond to the most pressing needs of 8.8 million persons, out of which 49,9% are children and 15% people with disabilities. The food insecurity situation is alarming with more than 1 in 4 people insecure in phase 3 and 4 (crisis and emergency respectively), of which 6.1 million are in phase 4 and 20.9 million in phase 3. With 5.5 million people internally displaced by conflict, the DRC hosts the second largest number of people displaced on the African continent. In the first eight months of 2021 alone, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced mainly due to attacks, armed clashes or land and intercommunal conflicts.
The DRC remains one of the most complex and protracted humanitarian crises in the world. Much can be traced back to raging conflicts and ethnic tensions often fueled by international or national political and economic interests. Attacks against civilians and widespread sexual and gender-based violence give rise to serious protection concerns, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri where a state of siege was officially declared in May 2021. With large parts of the country affected by conflict for more than two decades, there are generations of Congolese women, men, and children that have never experienced peace. Adding on to this, the country is regularly confronted with disease outbreaks, such as cholera, polio, measles, yellow fever, Ebola, and the bubonic plague. These epidemics have in turn a significant impact on the socio-economic situation of households, reinforcing existing humanitarian problems such as food insecurity and malnutrition.
Yet, the DRC crisis remains one of the most invisible and underfunded compared to the needs, and the gap between resources required and resources provided is widening. The percentage of funding in relation to the required budget is for the second year in a row below 40% (38% of the funds received for 2021). In this context, the international NGOs in DRC are sounding the alarm. The DRC, with its multiple crises and constantly renewed emergencies, the Congolese people, the families displaced by conflict and the children dying of hunger need to be placed high on the international agenda, with political commitment and financial support to match the severity of the needs.
The donor community must acknowledge the imbalance between humanitarian needs and the level of funding and put the humanitarian imperative and evidence, as presented in the HRP, at the center of funding priorities. To reduce humanitarian needs, and to ensure sustainable impact in the long run, it is of paramount importance to strengthen the links between emergency response, development aid, and peacebuilding efforts and to invest in both rapid response and longer-term approaches that can address medium and long-term effects of food security crises and build resilience and stability. Concrete and collective efforts are already undertaken by actors to implement the Triple Nexus approach, in which emergency-, development-, and peacebuilding actors work together in new ways towards a long-term change. The collective goal should be to assist the DRC in reaching a situation where recurrent humanitarian assistance is no longer necessary. Wherever conditions in governance and stability render this possibility, humanitarians will continue to seek to promote the involvement of development actors to work for sustainable solutions. To allow these efforts to succeed, not only more, but innovative ways of delivering flexible and longer-term funding must be adopted.
Humanitarian actors need stronger support by governments and donors to overcome operational challenges
Responding to humanitarian needs in the DRC is exceptionally challenging as access is a constant struggle, due to administrative impediments, logistical challenges, and the isolation of certain areas of the country, and a deteriorating security situation. The INGOs are met with bureaucratic and administrative impediments that, intentionally or unintentionally, target humanitarian action, causing difficulties in importing goods (e.g., lifesaving medicine), and massive costs, directly impacting the population it was intended for. And, given the vastness of the country, poor infrastructure, and the deteriorating security situation, humanitarians are constantly faced with logistical challenges, making them fundamentally dependent on costly flight services provided by commercial flights, humanitarian actors like UNHAS or ECHO, or private actors, to provide vital assistance to the most vulnerable populations in hard-to-reach areas in the country. Lack of these services have a direct impact on operations why long-term solutions need to be found.
The persistence of violence and attacks affecting humanitarian actors remains a major concern for all humanitarian organizations as these attacks are often followed by suspensions of movements in the affected areas with a direct impact on vulnerable people, consequently, no longer being served. DRC continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for aid workers. Between January 2021 and January 2022, the International NGO Safety Organization reported 268 security incidents on INGO staff, among these 36 abducted 29 injured and 7 killed. In the regions affected, insecurity and transport difficulties also disrupt the efforts of affected populations to access the few essential services available.
For humanitarian actions to matter and have an impact, administrative impediments must be solved, humanitarian staff need to be protected and humanitarian space needs to be assured. This requires a stronger stance, politically, economically, and diplomatically from the global donor community, governments, and private donors, to support INGOs advocacy towards DRC authorities on respecting the humanitarian principles and on finding sustainable solutions to impediments to humanitarian access.
Ensuring aid effectiveness and impact is a collective responsibility
We have a collective responsibility for what will happen to the DRC in the future, and there are opportunities for action and change. Without closing eyes to the current humanitarian needs of the millions, innovative solutions for long term sustainable impact are possible.
The International NGO Forum in the DRC welcomes dialogue and remains at disposal should you have any questions or wish to discuss further our views.