DR Congo

Preliminary findings indicate some two and a half million deaths in Eastern Congo conflict

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The International Rescue Committee is finalizing a report on mortality in war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Initial estimates point to a shocking number of deaths as a result of fighting since August 1998. The IRC conducted a mortality survey in five provinces earlier this year and found that there has been an estimated 2.5 million deaths since the outbreak of fighting, in excess of the number that would have occurred using normal baseline mortality rates during this 32-month period.
"If anything, the situation is worse than last year, when our previous Congo mortality survey estimated the loss of 1.7 million lives", said epidemiologist Les Roberts, the IRC's director of health policy and author of the study. This year's survey reexamines several areas studied last year and covers three new health zones. Roberts found a stunningly high death rate in nearly all the areas surveyed - with extraordinary losses among children.

The 2000 and 2001 surveys both indicate that the overwhelming majority of deaths were related to disease and malnutrition, while a proportionately smaller number were directly attributable to violence. Last year's survey put the number of such deaths at 200,000.

The ongoing fighting has driven hundreds of thousands of people into forests, jungles and other remote areas, where they have no food, medicine or shelter. Health care systems in the region have been decimated and war-affected areas have been largely inaccessible to aid organizations because of the insecurity.

The International Rescue Committee hopes that the start of troop withdrawals from eastern Congo, the deployment of UN forces and the reinvigorated peace process will increase access to populations in need.

The IRC's mortality survey in Congo was funded, in large part, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Media inquiries can be made to:

Ed Bligh (212)-551-3114/ebligh@theIRC.org or
Melissa Winkler (212)-551-0972/melissa@theIRC.org