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UN Warns Humanitarian Crisis in DRC Risks Peace


A senior U.N. official says governments are not living up to promises of help for the Democratic Republic of Congo's humanitarian crisis. He warns the stability of any government that emerges from upcoming elections in the DRC will depend on sustained international support.

The United Nations says the daily deaths, the daily rapes, the daily tragedies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are worse than anywhere else on earth. But U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Ross Mountain says this daily suffering does not occur in front of the cameras. It occurs in the bush and so it is overlooked.

"I am living in a country which has, on the average, 1,200 people a day who die from every known disease, including the bubonic plague, sleeping sickness, ebola, hemorrhagic fever, malaria," he said. "And I just wish there was at least a proportion of the attention that is being given to the concern for avian flu is given to the people who are dying of these less trendy diseases."

Mountain says people in the Congo are dying of preventable diseases. Malnutrition, bad water and sanitation are killing them. Lack of international attention is killing them.

He says the United Nations has received pledges of less than one-third of the $682 million it is seeking this year for humanitarian operations. He says this money is needed to save lives and protect the vulnerable against attacks, rapes, and other violations.

Mountain says it is particularly important for the international community to pay attention to this humanitarian crisis as the country moves closer to national elections. The first round of elections is expected to take place at the end of June. This will be the first time in 45 years that people in the Congo will be able to pick those who will govern them.

The Congo is a huge country of 60 million people in central Africa, surrounded by nine problematic neighbors.

Humanitarian Coordinator Mountain warns there will be serious consequences if specific steps are not taken to reinforce the stability and provide support for a future legitimate government.

"We would certainly hope it would not fall apart," he added. "We are taking all steps possible, but there are certainly dangers of expectations not being met and the investment that the international community is making now and through the peacekeeping forces and otherwise coming for naught."

Mountain says 26 million people have registered to vote. He notes there is great enthusiasm for these elections and expectations of benefits arising from them are very high.

If people are not to be disappointed, he says jobs must be created, living standards must be improved. He says problems of impunity, of undisciplined soldiers, of inadequately trained police and corruption must be tackled, and all this requires international support.