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DRC Humanitarian Crisis Back on International Agenda


FILE - New Congolese refugees arrive at a refugee settlement in Kyangwali, Uganda, on Feb. 16, 2018.

A Senior U.N. migration official says a main success of Friday's U.N. pledging conference for Democratic Republic of Congo is that it has put that country's forgotten humanitarian crisis back on the international agenda.

Donors have pledged $528 million for urgently needed humanitarian aid in DR Congo, making a significant dent in the U.N.'s efforts to raise $1.7 billion. Jean-Philippe Chauzy is the International Organization for Migration Chief of Mission in DRC. He tells VOA the conference also has succeeded in drawing international attention to the severity of the crisis in the country.

"Just over the past two years, the number of Congolese displaced by the violence has increased by more than 200 percent," said Chauzy. "As we talk now, we have about 4.5 million internally displaced Congolese and more than 13 million people in need. And the crisis also is affecting provinces, and until about one year ago that were relatively stable. The Kasai, for instance, or Tanganyika."

FILE - People who fled from their homes following recently attacks by assailants take refuge at a camp for displaced people in Bunia, Eastern Congo, Feb. 17, 2018.
FILE - People who fled from their homes following recently attacks by assailants take refuge at a camp for displaced people in Bunia, Eastern Congo, Feb. 17, 2018.

Six months ago, the United Nations declared the Kasai, Tanganyika and South Kivu as a level 3 emergency, its highest-level emergency. The DRC government, which has called this designation exaggerated and insulting, boycotted its own pledging conference.

Chauzy says the humanitarian crisis is spreading rapidly and the DRC government has a responsibility to protect its people from the violence generated by armed groups and ethnic tension.

Internally displaced people wait for food distribution at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Bunia, Ituri province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, April 12, 2018.
Internally displaced people wait for food distribution at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Bunia, Ituri province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, April 12, 2018.

During his three years as mission chief, Chauzy says he has traveled widely throughout the DRC. He says he continues to be shocked by the desperate conditions under which the displaced are forced to live, especially those who are crammed in communal centers.

"When you see Congolese families that are living literally under two pieces of sticks and a piece of cloth or plastic without any latrines, without any water and sanitation, without any proper food, without any health, it is profoundly shocking," said Chauzy. "And I would not hesitate to qualify some of these living conditions as absolutely inhuman."

Chauzy says IOM is in the process of moving people out of these atrocious collective centers into sites that meet proper international standards. He notes this is just one of the many essential aid projects that will be made possible by generous funding from donor countries.

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