Humanitarian needs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have reached alarming proportions because of violence. Five million Congolese have been forced to flee their homes.
At the humanitarian donor conference for the DRC held in April 2018, the European Union pledged €77 million, out of a total of €450 million pledged. The EU responded to the Ebola outbreak in May 2018 by providing funding, air transport, and sending in experts.
Comparable in size to western Europe, DRC is one of the world’s poorest countries despite its vast natural resources. Political tensions and socio-economic decline are exacerbated by a sharp increase in violence. The country's complex humanitarian crisis is characterised by conflict, mass displacement, malnutrition and epidemics.
DRC has 4.5 million internally displaced people, the highest number in Africa. It also hosts 540 000 refugees from neighbouring countries. The eastern provinces (Ituri, North and South Kivu) have been the scene of fighting for over two decades. Renewed violence has recently resulted in a mass exodus to Burundi and Uganda. Violent clashes also erupted in the Tanganyika and Kasaï provinces in 2016 and 2017. As a result, millions of people need urgent humanitarian assistance. Malaria, cholera, yellow fever, and measles affect millions of Congolese each year. Thanks to a swift, efficient and collective response by the international community and Congolese health authorities, the Ebola outbreak declared in Equateur province on 8 May 2018 was contained in less than three months.
EU humanitarian aid in the DRC focuses on helping people affected by violence, acute malnutrition and epidemics. The priority is to provide protection and life-saving assistance to victims of violence and to help the most vulnerable displaced people. Most of the EU’s humanitarian partners work in the conflict-plagued east of the country, delivering emergency health care, including care for survivors of sexual violence; providing food assistance and protection; improving water, sanitation and hygiene; and ensuring displaced children and young people can go to school or receive vocational training.
EU partners also respond to disease outbreaks and acute malnutrition across the country. Each year, some two million Congolese children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. The EU funding allows partner organisations with specific expertise in malnutrition management to start immediately working in areas with alarming levels of acute malnutrition. Teams travel to the field to support the local health facilities and staff.
In May 2018, DRC faced its ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976. The EU responded by providing €3.43 million in funding. The EU funded the World Health Organization’s (WHO) logistical set up, allowing medical and emergency teams and supplies to reach the remote Ebola hot spots. The Red Cross also received EU funding for the vital work of their volunteers and staff who carried out safe burials of dead and highly infectious bodies. They also traced the people who were in contact with Ebola patients and made sure they were followed up and given psychological support. EU support also helped to strengthen the control of movements in and out of the affected areas and to improve water, sanitation and hygiene.
The Congolese authorities requested assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. This mechanism enables coordinated assistance from the participating states and extends solidarity outside Europe's borders to people affected by disasters and disease outbreaks. Norway offered to supply a high-tech isolation unit for the transport of patients and sent a team to train health staff on how to use it. Finally, the EU humanitarian air service (ECHO Flight) which operates regular flights to more than a dozen destinations in DRC, started a weekly flight to bring medical teams and equipment to the Ebola affected region.