Last week the Democratic Republic of the Congo was declared the country worst affected by conflict displacement in the world. The crisis is set to worsen ahead of planned elections in 2018. Here are five things you need to know about Africa’s looming mega-crisis.
#1. Top of the charts
DR Congo has been declared the worst affected by displacement in the world by the global analysts, IDMC. A surge in violence that started in 2016 has forced over 1.7 million people to flee their homes this year alone; that’s over 5,500 people per day.
The violence has not only been widespread, it has been unimaginably brutal. Razed villages, attacked schools and children recruited as soldiers are the hallmarks of this conflict. Communities have been left traumatised.
#2. UN alarm bells ring
The United Nations sounded the alarm for DR Congo in October, declaring it a Level 3 emergency. This is the UN’s equivalent to dialling the emergency services. It’s reserved for the worst-of-the-worst global humanitarian crises. It puts DR Congo on par with Syria, Yemen and Iraq; the only other Level 3 emergencies in the world.
Why was the alarm sounded? DR Congo, a country two-thirds the size of Western Europe, is experiencing multiple and diverse conflicts at the same time. The top hotspots are Kasai, Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces.
#3. Massive food emergency
On top of the displacement crisis sits a deadly food crisis. Many families forced to flee depend on farming to earn a living. Now unable to plant or harvest, parents are unable to put food on their children’s plates. A distressing one in ten people do not have enough to eat.
#4. Aid agencies make impossible choices
Despite the UN putting the world on notice about DR Congo’s crisis, little has changed since October. Money has only trickled in to help the 13 million people in need. Today the country is the second lowest funded of the world’s largest crises - less than half of the USD 812 million aid appeal for 2017 is funded.
This means that aid agencies have to make impossible choices about which locations to provide aid to, and which must survive without. And because of the increasing number of people who need support, what little food, medicine and clean water is available must be shared among more and more communities.
#5. Political uncertainty ahead
All this is happening against a backdrop of political and economic instability.
Attempts to organise elections at the end of 2017 failed. Political instability will likely worsen the year ahead, according to analysts ACAPS, as the December deadline set to hold new elections draws closer.
With the political and economic crisis unlikely to improve in the coming months, and the humanitarian crisis receiving little support, DR Congo is setting the stage for a mega-crisis in 2018.