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OPINION: DR Congo – too many crises for one country?

by Maureen Philippon | Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
Thursday, 19 September 2019 10:15 GMT

Congolese victims of ethnic violence rest inside a ward at the General Hospital in Bunia, Ituri province in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Olivia Acland

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In a country ravaged by several competing crises, assistance must be given based on needs

Ebola is the one topic that makes headlines from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it is unfortunately only one among several crises affecting the Congolese people.

In two very recent reports, DR Congo has come a close second after the widely acknowledged critical humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen. 

A new FAO/WFP report shows that 15.8 million people in DR Congo are now in urgent need of food, nutrition and livelihood support. Yemen has the saddest record of 15.9 million. The DR Congo number has doubled since 2017, as violence, displacement and poverty continue to trap millions of men, women and children in extreme food insecurity.

In another report released earlier this month, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) places DR Congo as the world's second largest displacement crisis this year after Syria. DR Congo recorded 718,000 displaced as a result of intercommunal violence and clashes between armed groups during the first half of the year.

Families are uprooted, husbands, mothers and children are killed, jobs are lost, fields are not sown or harvests not harvested. Our team recently met a woman who lost four children and her husband in the recent intercommunal violence in Djugu territory because they were of a different ethnicity. Now, the woman is too scared to go to the field to cultivate her lands. In such a situation, it is obvious that the capacity of families to care for themselves is jeopardised and it drives the increase in food insecurity.  

On top of this, two large epidemics are now affecting Congo. The Ebola epidemic has been running for more than a year now, taking the lives of more than 2.000 men, women and children. The less well-known measles epidemic caused 2.750 casualties by mid-August according to MSF. They are drawing attention to the “contrast” between the Ebola response, where funding has been quickly mobilised, and the measles response, where only $2.5 million have been received out of the $8.9 million needed.

Similar funding ratios sadly describe the general humanitarian response. The humanitarian response plan is less than 30% funded, and some specific sectors like food security and education are below the 20% funding mark at the end of August.

While we applaud the mobilisation of funding and the media focus on the Ebola epidemic, we must continue to plea that the needs of all Congolese people are given equal attention. The humanitarian actors, the donors and the media cannot close their eyes to the suffering of a large group of people just because they are victims of the “wrong” crisis.

Interestingly, it is now also acknowledged that the fragmentation of the response, where a strict Ebola-focused health response used to be the only support offered to communities in urgent need of food, safety or malaria treatment for example, has been a key source of community resistance towards the Ebola response.

The international community has showed its ability to quickly scale up their support in response to the Ebola crisis in DR Congo, but we need to recognize that the Ebola outbreak is just one of the Congo’s many mega crises. Donor countries must also scale up support for food, nutrition, education and sanitation projects, areas that are essential for people’s survival.