SITUATION AT A GLANCE
19.6 MILLION Estimated Population in Need of Assistance
UN – January 2021
26.2 MILLION Estimated Acutely FoodInsecure Population
IPC – July 2021
5.1 MILLION Estimated Number of IDPs in the DRC
UNHCR – July 2021
962,000 Estimated Number of Congolese Refugees in Neighboring Countries
UNHCR – July 2021
519,000 Estimated Number of Refugees Sheltering in the DRC
UNHCR – July 2021
Humanitarian actors experienced nearly 170 security incidents across the DRC in the first half of 2021, resulting in the deaths of five humanitarian workers and injuries to 14 others, according to the UN. These security incidents, coupled with armed group attacks and deteriorating infrastructure, have undermined efforts to provide assistance to a growing number of crisis-affected communities in eastern DRC.
Worsening security conditions have contributed to protection concerns and increased displacement in Ituri and North Kivu provinces, with the provinces accounting for more than 50 percent of all IDPs in the DRC as of August, according to the UN.
Deteriorating Security Conditions Hinder Relief Efforts in First Half of 2021
Armed attacks, sometimes directly targeting humanitarian workers and convoys, have prompted some relief organizations to temporarily relocate staff and suspend activities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in recent months, limiting the provision of lifesaving assistance to crisis-affected populations including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities, according to relief actors. Poor road and airport infrastructure have delayed or otherwise inhibited the provision of humanitarian assistance, while certain areas—particularly during the September-to-May rainy season—are largely inaccessible, according to relief actors.
Overall, the UN recorded nearly 170 security incidents impacting relief actors in DRC between January and June 2021, resulting in the death of five humanitarian workers and injuries to 14 other aid workers. Nearly 70 percent of all incidents occurred in eastern DRC, with more than 110 incidents recorded in Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces. Criminality—including acts of armed robbery, the theft of humanitarian vehicles, and attacks on convoys—remains one of the main causes of security incidents impacting relief actors in 2021.
Increasing Insecurity Despite “State of Siege” in Ituri and North Kivu
Despite the continuing “state of siege” in Ituri and North Kivu—declared by the Government of the DRC (GoDRC) in May to reestablish stability in the two provinces—and a corresponding increase of GoDRC military presence and operations, security conditions in the two provinces have continued to deteriorate, according to a July report by a humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO). Relief actors recorded at least 117 civilian deaths in North Kivu alone due to armed conflict during July, as well as nearly 420 security incidents overall in July in Ituri and North Kivu, a significant increase from 100 security incidents recorded in June. In a recent incident illustrating the civilian impact of the intensifying violence, armed group elements attacked Kasanzi village in North Kivu’s Beni Territory on August 27, killing 19 people, abducting several others, and setting fire to houses, according to international media and the UN.
Continued Violence in Eastern DRC Exacerbates Humanitarian Needs
Increased armed group activities and clashes with Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) elements have heightened humanitarian needs and protection risks across North Kivu, displacing more than 1.8 million as of August, the UN reports. Meanwhile, increased armed group activities and clashes with FARDC in Ituri— where more than 1.7 million people were displaced as of August—have also resulted in a sharp increase in displacement, civilian deaths, and levels of humanitarian need in recent months. An August mission to Ituri led by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) in the DRC David McLachlan-Karr found that many IDPs sheltering at the nearly 60 displacement sites across the province remained in urgent need of emergency food, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) assistance, as well as health supplies and relief commodities.
Heightened displacement in Ituri has also increased health risks among vulnerable populations, to include the increased risk of bubonic plague transmission, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). To prevent the similar risk of the spread of poliomyelitis, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM’s) partner, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), provided logistical support for a polio vaccination in Ituri’s Djugu and Mahagi territories in July, targeting more than 500,000 children, including refugees from South Sudan.
Relief actors have also warned of increased humanitarian needs in Tanganyika Province’s Kongolo Territory following a spike in armed group activity that displaced 23,000 people in Kongolo between May and July and resulted in an increased number of incidents of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). According to UNHCR, the elevated number of SGBV incidents continued into the first half of August with reports of more than 240 attacks over a two-week period—17 incidents a day—in Tanganyika’s Kongolo and Mbulula health zones. USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA) partner IMA World Health continues to provide medical supplies as well as trainings on SGBV case management and survivor care to health workers in Kongolo and Mbulula health zones.
Conflict Drives Growing Food Insecurity in Eastern DRC
Poor households in some parts of eastern DRC will likely continue to face Crisis—IPC 3—or worse levels of acute food insecurity through the end of 2021, in part due to displacement and below-average food production resulting from continued conflict, flooding, and coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related restrictions, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). In Beni, widespread displacement and increased staple food prices have reduced household purchasing power, according to relief actors. In addition, the UN World Food Program (WFP) reported that the number of people experiencing insufficient food consumption had more than doubled in Maniema Province between May and August, with more than 65 percent of households experiencing insufficient food consumption.
Overall, approximately 42 million people across the DRC had insufficient food consumption in early August, marking an increase of 7.1 million people compared to the first quarter of 2021, according to WFP. WFP and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also project that more than 5.6 million people in the DRC will likely face Emergency—IPC 4—levels of acute food insecurity between August and December. With USAID/BHA and other donor support, WFP reached nearly 338,000 people countrywide with emergency food and nutrition assistance between August 1 and August 16, including providing 149,000 people—mostly children and pregnant and lactating women—with treatment for moderate wasting, a serious form of malnutrition.
IDPs Remain in Need of Assistance Three Months After Nyiragongo Eruption
As of late August, nearly 40,000 of the more than 500,000 people displaced by the May 22 eruption of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano in North Kivu remained displaced in the province’s Masisi, Nyiragongo, and Rutshuru territories, according to the UN. Many among the affected population lack the economic means to return to their places of origin or do not plan to return due to the loss of possessions and livelihoods. Overall, lava flows or the earthquakes that followed the eruption destroyed or heavily damaged the homes or land of more than 23,000 people.
In Goma, people displaced by the eruption continue to shelter in spontaneous sites—such as schools and churches—while awaiting the construction of a formal transit site in North Kivu’s Kanyaruchinya village, to be managed by the GoDRC. In all three territories, IDPs face heightened protection risks such as extortion, physical attacks, and theft; in particular, women and girls with limited financial resources are at heightened risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, while children are experiencing increased risks related to economic exploitation. Additionally, communities displaced to Rutshuru are vulnerable to abductions and attacks due to armed group activities in the area, according to UNHCR. Crowded living conditions and insufficient access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities have also increased the risk of exposure to communicable diseases, including cholera and COVID-19. USAID/BHA provided $500,000 to UNICEF to respond to urgent WASH needs following the eruption.