UN: Humanitarian disaster looms for millions in DRC

Hundreds of displaced people, who fled the advance of the March 23 Movement rebellion, attend a meeting of the governor of North Kivu province, General Constant Ndima, at an informal camp in Kanyaruchinya, the northern district of Goma, on November 2, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS – UN humanitarians warned on Tuesday that violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has put millions of civilians on the brink of a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Because of fighting between armed groups and the DRC military and rebel raids on civilians, 6.1 million people have been displaced from their homes, 65 percent of them in the easternmost provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, since March 2022, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

The violence has spread to parts of the country that had remained calm in the past years, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said

The violence has spread to parts of the country that had remained calm in the past years, OCHA said. "This includes the western provinces of Mai-Ndombe and Kwilu, which have been plagued by intercommunal violence since June 2022."

The humanitarians said provincial authorities in the DRC's west reported that the fighting killed hundreds of people and uprooted more than 50,000.

In North Kivu alone, persistent fighting between the M23 armed group and the Congolese army displaced more than 222,000 people between January and February, bringing the total to over 880,000 displaced persons in the province, OCHA said.

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The humanitarians said that more than half of the displaced live in precarious conditions in churches, schools, hospital premises, make-shift settlements and spontaneous sites in Nyiragongo and Goma and surrounding areas.

The office said that in Ituri province, dozens of people have died, and more than 144,000 people were displaced between January and February.

"As a result of the violence, food insecurity is on the rise in a country that is already home to more than 26.4 million people who struggle to access enough food," OCHA said. "Cases of malnutrition and epidemics like measles and cholera are increasing, further stretching the humanitarian community's capacity to respond."

The humanitarians said they are doing their best to mobilize resources. But the increasing needs exceed response capacities. There is an urgent need for all humanitarian organizations to scale up their operations in areas where conditions are the most critical, particularly in the east.

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The $2.25 billion appeal for the DRC is currently 10 percent funded, OCHA said, adding that "we urgently need additional resources to avert a looming disaster."