Crushing levels of violence, displacement fuel unprecedented suffering in the DRC, IASC Principals say


Crushing levels of violence, displacement fuel unprecedented suffering in the DRC, IASC Principals say

Escalating conflict is driving record levels of gender-based violence, displacement, and hunger in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), threatening to push the country to the brink of catastrophe without urgent international action.

Decades of conflict and the resulting humanitarian emergency have already exhausted and traumatized millions of civilians. In the last few months alone, more than 700,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, bringing the total number of displaced people to an all-time high of 7.2 million.

Ensuring that sufficient aid reaches civilians in need swiftly and without impediment is critical. But this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan is woefully underfunded, with just 16 per cent of the $2.6 billion needed having been received. The gap between rapidly rising needs and sufficient resources means millions of people are left without the lifesaving support they need.

This lack of resources is compounding the crisis by forcing humanitarian organizations to curb their assistance, with women and girls paying a devastatingly high price. Minimal protection and security in crowded displacement camps mean many are forced to exchange sex for survival and support for their families. When they venture outside to collect firewood, water, or for work, they are also exposed to appalling levels of sexual violence.

Gender-based violence has surged to unprecedented levels, with recorded cases surging between 2022 and 2023. Stigma and the fear of retaliation prevent many survivors from coming forward. In addition to sexual violence, children are also at risk of other threats, including abduction, killing, maiming, and recruitment by armed groups.

Perpetrators of human rights violations must be held accountable for their crimes. Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected.

More than 25 million people – a quarter of the population – continue to face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in the DRC, a country facing one of the world’s largest food crises. Cholera and measles are also spreading rapidly as the health sector continues to deteriorate. Climate extremes worsened by El Niño are yet another threat for already struggling families.

Bringing an end to the escalating humanitarian crisis in the DRC requires addressing its root causes: conflict, the exploitation of natural resources, illicit financial flows, prevailing gender inequality, and development deficits.

The organizations must step up the support to the Congolese people, including to women and girls who are bearing the brunt of this conflict, as they work to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and return to their homes. The international community must mobilize additional resources for the humanitarian response and support for civil society organizations – as well as the political will to end the violence once and for all.