23 Oct 2012: OCHA Operations Director John Ging with Mark Bowman from the UK’s Department for International Development and Catherine Wiesner from the US State Department in the DRC. Credit: OCHA/Imane Cherif
OCHA Operations Director John Ging called on Monday for a greater response to the “dire humanitarian situation” affecting millions of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This year alone, violence by armed groups including the M23 has led to massive displacement and abuses against civilians in the east of the country.
“This emergency adds to what are already monumental humanitarian needs in the DRC,” said Mr. Ging, who travelled to the vast African country in October with Mark Bowman from the UK’s Department for International Development and Catherine Wiesner from the US State Department.
“Among the challenges the country faces: 4.5 million people are suffering from food insecurity; 1 million children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition; and there have been 27,000 cholera cases this year,” he added.
The group visited North and South Kivu in eastern DRC and saw for themselves the impact of the conflict on civilians. More than 2.4 million people are displaced across the country and about 1.6 million of them are in the Kivus. Since the beginning of 2012, aid organizations have provided food, water, shelter and healthcare to millions of people.
In North Kivu, the delegates visited a trade fair organized by UNICEF and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). More than 6,500 people gathered at the fair and received vouchers to pick up essential products such as food, mattresses, pots and utensils that they needed.
“It is a very innovative way of distributing aid and meeting the needs,” said Mr. Ging. “Rather than having a standard set of items for distribution, people could choose in accordance with their needs from a much larger range of products.”
It is crucial that aid organizations continue to step up their work in the DRC, stressed the Operations Director. “There is an effective aid operation, but it is not sufficient,” he said highlighting the need for more funding to continue addressing the enormous and ever-growing challenges in DRC.
“We need more food assistance, we need more support for healthcare and we need more support for the essential household items that people need when they are displaced. We are not capable of meeting those needs without additional funding,” he added.
Earlier this year, UN agencies and humanitarian partners appealed for US$791 million to provide life-saving aid in the DRC, but they have only received 54 per cent of the funding so far. “Sadly the news of suffering in the DRC does not receive the same attention, globally, as other crises. We have seen a fall-off in the funding,” said Mr. Ging.
While the humanitarian needs in the DRC have risen consistently in recent years, funding for the relief response has decreased steadily since 2009, with annual contributions falling from $541 million in 2008 to $391 million in 2011.