A new report says the number of people who’ve died in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is much higher than previously thought. The report from the International Rescue committee says 5.4 million people have died since 1998. That’s nearly one and a half million higher than previous estimates for the DRC.
Dr. Richard Brennan is director of the IRC’s global health programs and one of the lead author’s of the mortality survey. From New York City, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the findings.
“What we’ve been able to document with our most recent survey is that the mortality rates are elevated right across the Democratic Republic of Congo. And those rates are almost 60 percent higher than what we would expect for sub-Saharan as a whole. And those sustained elevations in mortality mean that even more than four years after the official end of war, 40,000 people are continuing to die every month in Congo,” he says.
The previous estimate of 3.9 million was from an earlier mortality study also done by the International Rescue Committee. The latest figure of 5.4 million results from a 5th survey of the country. “So, essentially we’re just updating our previous studies with this most recent survey,” Brennan says.
Asked whether the DRC can be compared to other conflicts considering the high death toll, the IRC officials says, “We do estimate that this is arguably probably the deadliest crisis since the end of the Second World War. Having said that, there are more concerted efforts to try and better document mortality associated with conflicts and humanitarian crises.”
Most of those who’ve died in the DRC conflict were not victims of violence,. In fact, less than one percent were. Instead, most fell victim to such things as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition. Children have been hit hard. About half of the fatalities were children under the age of five, even though children make up only 19 percent of the population. Much of this can be blamed on the breakdown of health care systems and programs.
“When you do have ongoing conflict, when you do have bad guys walking around with guns, it can still cause major disruptions in what we would call the livelihoods of communities. Clinics don’t work; vaccination programs don’t operate; farmers can’t work their land,” he says.
Brennan says there’s “no quick fix” and that a protracted conflict will require a protracted recovery.
The findings of the IRC survey are based on visits to 14,000 households in 35 districts of the DRC’s 11 provinces.