This country is facing a massive humanitarian crisis. Scene of one of probably Africa’s worst ever civil wars during the late 1990s, is now being riven by a whole series of smaller conflicts over land, resources, and power. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the biggest number of people displaced by conflict on a continent that has the most displaced people in the world. In 2017, an average of 5,500 people abandoned their homes and livelihoods every day, bringing the total to over 4 million.
Most of the new displacements happened in the southern central province of Kasai and Tanganyika, in the country’s southeast. These are two regions that had been relatively peaceful for years. These two crises come on top of the historical hotspots, such as North and South Kivu provinces, in the country’s east. That in turn has precipitated a hunger crisis, with 7.7 million people facing acute hunger and 1.9 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. The majority of people here do not have access to clean water and the country is currently undergoing the worst-recorded cholera outbreaks of this decade. The sheer scale of the problem is huge.
Part of the problem is probably down to “crisis fatigue.” Although the most recent conflict broke out in Kasai in 2016, there was little media interest until the murder of two UN investigators in March 2017. The recent assassination of 14 UN peacekeepers in North Kivu also contributed to an increase in public awareness, but it’s still a struggle to get people interested.
Concern and other agencies have been flagging the deteriorating situation in DRC for quite some time and the UN recently decided to declare a Level 3 (L3) emergency – the highest alert level – in three provinces regions, in an effort to attract attention. There are so many other very visible crises in the news and it’s hard to keep people interested in countries that have been plagued by conflict for decades.