THE GUARDIAN- DRC snubs aid conference, saying crisis is exaggerated

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has boycotted a key donor conference in Geneva, accusing aid agencies of exaggerating the extent of the crisis in the vast central African country.

Friday’s conference only raised $530m (£370m) of the $1.7bn that the UN has said is necessary to meet the humanitarian needs of millions of people suffering from war, displacement, disease and hunger.

The United Nations has declared the situation in parts of DRC to be at level 3, the body’s highest level of emergency.

He said: “We have a group of UN bureaucrats who are trying to mislead the international community on the real situation of our people. We need humanitarian aid, but not of that order.”

Officials in DRC claim only 230,000 people have been displaced, a fraction of UN estimates of 4.5 million. Mende said the UN, which has about 16,000 peacekeepers in DRC, was trying to justify its presence in the country. The government has recently made clear it wants the peacekeeping mission to end by 2020.

Internally displaced people wait for food to be distributed at a camp in Bunia, Ituri province, eastern DRC

Internally displaced people wait for food to be distributed at a camp in Bunia, Ituri province, eastern DRC. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

The UK has announced an additional £22m of humanitarian assistance and called on DRC “to fully recognise the scale of suffering”.

Harriett Baldwin, the UK’s minister for Africa, said: “This is a major humanitarian crisis and I have pressed for the DRC to … cooperate with international efforts to help the millions of Congolese people affected.”

On the overall shortfall in funding, Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said: “We are disappointed that too few countries sent a real message of hope to the millions of Congolese children, women and men in desperate need of assistance … While we welcome the pledges made today, the response is far from matching the spike in humanitarian needs in Congo.”

DRC has been hit by violence, rebellions, protests and political turmoil in recent months, leading to fears over further unrest. Five million people died in the civil war between 1997 and 2003.

The security situation has deteriorated markedly as government authority has collapsed, emboldening rival militia groups which control large areas of territory, often competing for DRC’s rich resources.

More than 13 million Congolese people need humanitarian aid, twice as many as last year, and 7.7 million face severe food insecurity, up 30% from a year ago, according to the UN.

The crisis is most acute in the central Kasai region and in the east. Six rangers in Virunga national park were killed this week in an ambush, underlining the growing threat.

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, DRC head of the UN migration agency IOM, described a visit to Kalemie, capital of the eastern Tanganyika province, where he saw 1,000 families camped in a schoolyard.

“It reminded me of when I first read Dante’s Inferno – it was absolutely awful, living conditions were absolutely atrocious,” he told Reuters. “No proper water, people defecating wherever they could, shelters made of pieces of plastic or of rags on sticks.”

Egeland said the “underfunded mega-disaster” in DRC received little international attention because migrants from the country did not arrive on European shores and the conflicts did not involve major powers.

The instability has been aggravated by Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down as president at the end of his election term in 2016. Kabila, in power since 2001, is barred by term limits from standing for re-election. But opponents suspect he intends to try to change the constitution to run again, or further delay the poll.

In a statement, a coalition of Congolese civil society groups said: “This humanitarian crisis is not a result of an unpredictable natural disaster; it is a manmade tragedy. It has been marked by violence, often state-sponsored, harsh political repression, and flagrant and repeated violations of our people’s most basic rights.”

Moïse Katumbi, a leading opposition politician, called the government’s stance “criminal”.

Jose Barahona, Oxfam’s DRC country director, said his organisation had been forced to halve food rations to 90,000 people in Kasai province. “The lack of funding forces us to make choices we shouldn’t have to make. Last month, we had to restrict the rations even further, with over a quarter of people receiving no food at all,” Barahona said.

In the Kasai region, only 39% of people needing aid received help between October 2017 and the end of January 2018, aid agencies say. In Ituri, a province bordering Uganda, thousands are being forced from their homes by violence. Since December 2017, more than 100 people have been killed as villages, schools and health centres have been burned.

Mende said DRC had tried to reach an agreement with the UN on the disputed statistics, but talks had not progressed beyond a first meeting. “We were very surprised by the hurry to hold this conference. If you want to take care of an ill patient you have to find out what the problem is first,” he said.

Article Sourced from The Guardian

Photo Credit- The Guardian

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