The humanitarian needs in DRC have reached alarming proportions. 2017 was 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 their homes has surpassed 5 million, which includes the highest number of internally displaced people in Africa. In late 2017, the UN activated its highest level of emergency response required for the most challenging humanitarian crises.
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. DRC’s complex humanitarian crisis is characterised by conflict, mass displacement, malnutrition and epidemics. In addition to millions of internally displaced Congolese, DRC hosts over 537 000 refugees from neighbouring countries.
The Kivu and Ituri provinces have been the scene of fighting for over two decades. More violent clashes have erupted in the Tanganyika, Kasaï, and Ituri provinces. According to the UN more than 3 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance in these regions, including shelter, water, food assistance, nutrition, health care and education. In Kasaï, the food security situation is alarming: 1.9 million people require assistance. In Tanganyika, an average of 1000 people per day were deplaced during 2017 and 900 000 people now need vital aid. Fresh conflict in South Kivu and Ituri has resulted in a mass exodus to Burundi and Uganda. In north Kivu, the myriad armed groups are hampering aid delivery to hundreds of thousands of people in need.
As a result of this, but also due to the extreme poverty and crumbling health care system, DRC’s population is highly vulnerable to acute malnutrition and disease outbreaks.
In 2017, the EU's response - both Member States and European Commission - to the various crises in the DRC was around €163 million. This included nearly €28 million in EU humanitarian aid from the Commission.
Humanitarian operations funded through the Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) 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 now constant flare-ups of ethnic tension, clashes as well as arbitrary killings and sexual violence continue to cause untold suffering among the population. The priority of EU humanitarian aid is therefore to provide victims of violence and displaced populations with protection and life-saving assistance in a timely manner.
EU humanitarian partners also respond to disease outbreaks and acute malnutrition. Given the decrepit state of DRC’s health care system, diseases such as malaria, cholera, yellow fever, and measles affect millions of Congolese each year.
The EU responds to nutrition crises by enabling partners to react at the first signs of emergency levels of acute malnutrition. Qualified staff trains public health care workers on how to effectively treat severely malnourished children with ready-to-use therapeutic foods and provide specialised care for those 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.