2017 has been one of the most violent years in DRC’s recent history, with ongoing conflict in the Kivu region, renewed fighting in Tanganyika and a new and brutal conflict in Kasaï. The number of Congolese forced to flee from their homes has reached 3.9 million, the highest number of internally displaced people in Africa. In July, the EU released €5 million in emergency aid for the victims of violence in DRC’s Kasaï region.
Comparable in size to western Europe, DRC is one of the world’s poorest countries despite its vast natural resources. DRC’s complex humanitarian crisis is characterised by conflict, mass displacement, malnutrition and epidemics. In addition to millions of displaced people, DRC hosts over 526 236 refugees from neighbouring countries.
Kivus and Ituri provinces have been the scene of fighting for over two decades. More recently violent clashes have erupted in the Tanganyika and Kasaï provinces. The UN has warned that in Kasaï alone 3.2 million people urgently need food assistance and 250 000 children could starve without nutritional help. Stepping up aid to the victims of this one-year old conflict is a humanitarian imperative in this region which was already extremely fragile before the crisis. In Kivus and Tanganyika, regular flare-ups of ethnic tension, violence and arbitrary killings continue to cause untold suffering.
Millions of displaced Congolese are in need of shelter, water, food assistance, nutrition, health care and education. Due to extreme poverty and a crumbling health care system, DRC’s population is highly vulnerable to acute malnutrition and disease outbreaks such as cholera and Ebola. In 2016, 14 million malaria cases were recorded and 1.9 million under-fives are expected to suffer from severe malnutrition in the course of 2017.
The EU's response - both Member States and European Commission - to the various crises in the DRC stands at around €92 million in 2017. This includes nearly €28 million in EU humanitarian aid from the Commission.
Humanitarian operations funded through the Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department focus on helping people affected by recent or ongoing violence, acute malnutrition and epidemics. Violent conflict has far-reaching consequences for families and host communities. The priority is therefore to provide victims of violence with protection and life-saving assistance in a timely manner.
EU humanitarian partners also respond to disease outbreaks and acute malnutrition. Given the poor state of DRC’s health care system, malaria, cholera, yellow fever, and measles continue to take a heavy toll. The EU responds to nutrition crises by enabling partners to react at the first signs of emergency levels of malnutrition. They treat severely malnourished children with ready-to-use therapeutic foods and provide specialised care for the ones suffering from medical complications. However, with 1.9 million children under five at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition countrywide, considerably more attention needs to go to the prevention and treatment of undernutrition.
The EU’s humanitarian partners include UN agencies, the Red Cross and a host of NGOs. They carry out a range of activities: treating severely undernourished children and providing emergency health care, including specialised care for survivors of violence, sexual or other; providing food assistance, livelihood support and protection; improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions; ensuring access to education and vocational training for displaced children and youths; and responding to epidemic outbreaks.
In addition, the Commission runs its own humanitarian air service (ECHO Flight) at an approximate cost of €7 million per year. ECHO Flight offers safe and free-of-charge transport to remote areas for ECHO partners and the wider humanitarian community. It flies to more than 15 destinations in the DRC. In May 2017, an ECHO Flight plane transported aid workers and medical supplies to the area affected by an Ebola outbreak.