The humanitarian response plan for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains the second largest worldwide. Nearly 13 million people in the DRC are in need of humanitarian assistance. The ongoing Ebola virus disease outbreak is not yet under control and has become the second largest outbreak in history.
With nearly 13 million people suffering from severe food insecurity (critical lack of consistent access to enough food), the Democratic Republic of Congo faces the second largest food crisis in the world. According to UNICEF, more than one million children under five years of age in the DRC suffer from severe acute malnutrition, which is a life-threatening condition.
For the past decades, eastern DRC has seen inter-communal violence and militia attacks resulting in mass exodus and a particular pattern of internal displacement movements, known as déplacements pendulaires, where people carry on with their activities at their home area during the day but then retreat to safer places for the night. In 2018, there were over three million people in the DRC who were either internally displaced or who had just returned to their, often destroyed, place of origin. The DRC itself is host to more than 537 000 refugees who arrive mainly from Rwanda, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan.
With its weak health system, the DRC is prone to epidemics, such as cholera, measles or malaria. The tenth Ebola outbreak in the DRC was declared in August 2018. The disease has since claimed over 500 lives in the conflict-affected provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.
In 2018 alone, EU humanitarian aid in the Democratic Republic of Congo amounted to more than €80 million. The funding aims to help people affected by violence, acute malnutrition, and epidemics. The priority for 2019 is to provide protection and life-saving assistance to victims of violence and displaced people.
The majority of the EU’s humanitarian partners work in the conflict-torn east of the country where they deliver emergency healthcare, including care for survivors of sexual violence, providing food assistance and protection, improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions, and ensuring that children in humanitarian situations can go to school. The EU’s support also allows partners with specific expertise in malnutrition management to work in areas that have alarming malnutrition levels, saving the lives of thousands of children.
In response to the two Ebola outbreaks in 2018, the EU mobilised considerable support for its humanitarian partners on the ground. The European Union provided almost €10 million in aid to the World Health Organization (WHO), UN agencies, the Red Cross movement and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This EU aid is being used to step up several activities, like coordination and logistics, infection prevention and control measures, surveillance and contact tracing (essential to find potential infected patients) and to ensure safe burials. EU medical and logistic experts were deployed to Beni and Butembo until the very end of 2018 to provide assistance and advice to the response teams and partners. The EU is also financially supporting the Red Cross to reinforce preparedness and prevention measures in neighbouring Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan.
As part of its response to the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, in addition to the humanitarian funding provided, the EU activated its Civil Protection Mechanism. Through the Mechanism, the EU sent a Norwegian team to the DRC to conduct training on the use of high-tech isolation units used for the medical evacuation of Ebola patients. The EU remains on standby to provide further assistance.
The DRC hosts more than half a million refugees from neighbouring countries, the majority of whom are children and young people under 18 years of age. These refugees live in camps or with host families mainly in areas that are difficult to reach, or where there is active conflict, such as Haut-Uele, Ituri, South Kivu or Tanganyika. The EU supports the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide protection and assistance to these refugees, for instance, in the registration process, food distribution, and in the provision of shelter and access to healthcare.
The EU also provides logistical support in the DRC through a humanitarian air service known as ECHO Flight. Humanitarian air services are often the only way to reach people in need in remote areas, deliver life-saving supplies and transport aid workers. ECHO flights are also used for medical or security evacuations. The service is free of charge for humanitarian partners and aid organisations.