The transitional government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has survived a number of crucial tests in 2005 but remains very fragile. Insecurity in the East has remained a prominent feature throughout the year with the situation in Ituri degenerating into open conflict between rebels and the Mission d'Observateurs des Nations Unies (MONUC) and the Armed forces of the Government (FARDC). Two humanitarian aid workers were briefly kidnapped in July. In the Kivus, former Hutus rebels of the FDLR have refused to disarm and even committed a number of massacres of civilians in rural villages.
The International community has continued to support the transition process by applying political pressure and providing funds to keep the various transitional initiatives on track. A positive consequence has been the progress in the registration of voters for the referendum on the constitution and the subsequent elections which must be held before June 2006. On the other hand the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process and the security sector reforms have tended to drag behind schedule, with thousands of armed men still operating outside of government control. Also, whereas the successful elections in Burundi are a very positive development for the region, the continued presence of rebel groups hostile to the DRC's neighbours remains a significant source of potential destabilization.
According to the IMF the economy has seen some growth and DRC has crept up half a dozen places on the GINA scale but despite this the country remains in a desperate situation. An estimated 1-2 million people remain displaced internally or as refugees abroad. Nonetheless a significant number of these are now returning home, many under their own steam but some 180,000 are set to be repatriated in 2006 under the auspices of UNHCR.
Globally food security seems to be improving with a reduction in malnutrition rates (only one recent survey has shown acute malnutrition rates above WHO danger levels) but there are still islands of hunger, mostly resulting from insecurity and inaccessibility. Unfortunately these meager gains are under threat from the spread of the Mosaic virus which is destroying the staple manioc crop.
Mortality rates remain unacceptably high, especially in the under fives and all the other public health indicators are still amongst the worst in the world. Indeed DRC has less than 80% polio vaccination coverage and has even suffered outbreaks of bubonic plague. Also, despite the considerable efforts made in the health sector, access to affordable healthcare is still not universal. Violent attacks on women have remained an appalling feature of the insecurity and in that women are such a crucial part of household survival their targeting is the cornerstone of much of the socio-economic disintegration of the DRC.
2005 has seen a marked return of the major institutional donors. The World Bank, the European Commission and other traditional development donors are now set to re-invest massively into the Social development and infrastructure sectors, complimenting their other commitments to the various transitional initiatives. However much of this still depends on successful elections.
Thus in 2006 DG ECHO will be aiming to rationalize its programme in line with the developing situation. DG ECHO will thus consolidate and even expand its position in the east of the country i.e. in Ituri, the Kivus and parts of Maniema and North Katanga where the persistent insecurity continues to create significant humanitarian needs, which require the flexible response that DG ECHO is best suited to provide.
Activities to be funded in 2006 will continue to center around the similar objectives developed over the last years, notably:
Health (40%): To provide access to a basic package of healthcare for some 8 million beneficiaries with a special emphasis on women and children.
Resettlement (55%): to support the returning internally displaced, refugees and their host communities, through the provision of a package of assistance designed to meet their immediate needs and re-establish their ability to achieve self-sufficiency.
The envelope proposed for the DG ECHO DRC Global Plan for 2006 is EUR 38 million.