The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, today wrapped up a four-day mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by calling on the world “not to forget the DRC, where millions of girls, boys, women and men are suffering from violence, diseases, and malnutrition.”
During two days of travel outside of the capital Kinshasa, Mr. O’Brien visited some of the communities most affected by the massive crisis including in Tshikapa, Kasai Province, where a year of conflict has led to serious human rights abuses and displaced some 1.4 million people throughout the entire Kasai region, pushing the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) within the DRC to 3.8 million – the most in Africa. The violence in the five provinces that make up the Kasai region has also pushed thousands of children out of school. Some 600 cases of sexual-based violence have been reported since last year, while several schools and health clinics have been commandeered into temporary shelter for the displaced. In addition to the 3.8 million IDPs, the country is dealing with a steady flow of refugees from neighboring Burundi, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
In Tshikapa, Mr. O’Brien heard displaced people recount horrifying stories of the loss of their family members, belongings and their means of income since violence broke out in the town in August 2016. “In the Komba IDP site, I met young Mangasa Kalone who told me how she was almost burned alive when her village was attacked,” Mr. O’Brien highlighted. He also visited a school compound where NGOs are providing protection and recreational activities to some 1,000 unaccompanied minors.
With UN agencies and NGOs scaling up their presence in the Kasai region, the UN’s top humanitarian official called for safe access for the courageous humanitarians who are doing their utmost to ensure that aid reaches those most vulnerable in remote areas. Humanitarian actors from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations are seeing their ability to access communities heavily constrained by the ever-present insecurity.
In Kalemie, in the southeastern Tanganyika Province, some 500,000 people have been displaced in the wake of a terrible upsurge in violence between two communities over the past 12 months. Mr. O’Brien held talks with provincial authorities on the need to ensure that displaced men, women and children receive the full attention and protection that they need until it is safe for them to make the choice to return home. He also held talks with a wide range of actors in North Kivu and South Kivu, two of the traditional hotbeds of humanitarian needs that require a step change for better commitment of resources. In Kinshasa, he met with the Congolese Prime Minister, Bruno Tshibala, the Vice-Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Emmanuel Shadary, and four other ministerial officials. He also held talks with NGOs and representatives of donor countries, senior officials of UN agencies and of the peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO.
“The humanitarian community has been working with significantly insufficient financial resources to deliver at the scale required,” Mr. O’Brien said. An appeal for US$812.5 million that was launched this year has so far received less than 25 per cent of funding, the lowest funding level of the past 10 years. “This is not just insufficient – it is unacceptable for the global community to leave this very real suffering of the Congolese people unaddressed – just because of a shortage of money,” he declared.
“I urge and encourage the international community not to let down the millions of people in need in the DRC. How many more clues do we need to step up? I am asking our donors to donate and do more to fund the humanitarian appeal to prevent millions of vulnerable people from falling further into total chaos”, Mr. O’Brien insisted.
“All we need now is the funding. Given the skills, commitment, leadership and readiness of the United Nations’ humanitarians and all our international and national partners, the scale up to meet these desperate needs can be done. With the necessary resources, we can save lives and protect millions of the most persistently vulnerable women, girls, boys and men on our planet,” Mr. O’Brien concluded.