DR Congo: Six months into the year, humanitarian actors struggle to scale up response due to low funding
Kinshasa, 7 July 2017: With half of its 26 provinces affected by armed violence, ethnic conflict, diseases and natural disasters, all this within a volatile regional context and amid historically low levels of funding, the first six months of 2017 have proven that the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains an unrelenting humanitarian crisis that is having a suffocating impact on millions of people.
The DRC is currently home to 3.7 million people who have been forced to flee violence inside the country, making it Africa’s most affected country by internal displacement. This represents a 60 per cent increase from six months ago when that figure stood at 2.2 million. Among the 3.7 million, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that one-third of those displaced -1.3 million- stems from the crisis in the Kasai region in the center of the country. Next to IDPs, the country is dealing with a steady flow of refugees from neighboring Burundi, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
In North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika, the ongoing intercommunity conflict led in the last twelve months to the death of many civilians and the displacement of well over half a million. Measles and cholera frequently break out, while the incidence of malaria is on the rise. During the first six months of the year, over 38,000 cases of cholera, measles and yellow fever were recorded, over 700 people died of these diseases, figures that are higher than the 32,000 cases and 670 deaths recorded during the last six months of 2016. Malnutrition, induced in large part by insecurity and population movement, is also taking a toll, with close to two million children suffering from the worst from of malnutrition. Ituri, with its myriad of armed groups, stands as “a forgotten province” as a handful of NGOs have withdrawn over the past two years and much of the attention is focused on other provinces. An outbreak of Ebola in Bas-Uele province that killed four people that was recently declared over stands as one of the few good news of the past six months.
While civilians have paid the heaviest price for the violence, humanitarian actors from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations are seeing their ability to access communities heavily constrained. Medical staff have been killed, others were kidnapped; hospitals and clinics and offices have been attacked and ransacked, ranking the country among the most dangerous areas in the world for humanitarian actors.
This unsavory protection crisis is compounded by insufficient financial resources. An appeal for USD 748 million that was launched earlier this year has so far received less than 25 per cent of funding, ranking it at the lowest funding level of the past 10 years. In late April, an emergency appeal for $64.5 million was launched for the Kasai crisis. To date it has only received 11 per cent.
“The DRC crisis is a succession of acute shocks that have eroded the dignity of millions of people, and the first six months of the year were no different. The Kasai crisis is today the most visible tip, but across the country the lives of millions of people have been made miserable by senseless violence, lack of access to basic social service and poverty. We can redeploy our staff, fly in new expertise, distribute food and medicine in all corners, but without money, we won’t be able to respond to the level that we need to”, acting Head of OCHA in DRC, Alain Decoux today said.
The UN Central Emergency Fund, the Kinshasa-based Humanitarian Fund and some donors have responded to the appeals, allowing operations to be rolled, however “much more is needed to significantly scale up the response”, Decoux added.
With Kasai as an added emergency within the emergency, humanitarian actors have been forced to deploy some vital human resources from already ongoing operations, compromising the response in other areas of the country where a situation that was already critical is rapidly deteriorating.
“Saving and protecting lives remains our sole objective, and our ability to do so in the coming next months will be largely be determined by the generosity of donors and our collective ability to tell the world that the humanitarian crisis in DRC still matters”, said Decoux.