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UN Preparing for Crisis in DRC

FILE - Demonstrators gather in front of a burning car during an opposition rally in Kinshasa, DRC, Sept. 19, 2016.

The United Nations is making contingency plans to respond to a sudden increase in humanitarian needs should the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s political situation turn violent.

The U.N. has been warning for several months that without a serious national political dialogue, tensions in the DRC could deteriorate into a severe and possibly violent crisis.

The U.N. has 20,000 peacekeepers in the country’s volatile east and has been conducting military contingency planning to protect civilians if the situation escalates.

On Tuesday, the mission’s humanitarian and resident coordinator, Mamadou Diallo, told a small group of member states that his team was also preparing should there be election-related violence or mass displacement.

“If these things happen, we have a contingency plan, which is built around what we have called the “hot spots” — places where we anticipate that political strife will happen because they are opposition strongholds or there is a history of political conflict in these places,” said Diallo.

The DRC has been a focus of humanitarian efforts for the past two decades, because of internal conflicts and natural disasters and as recipient of refugees from its neighbors. Currently, Diallo said, the country is coping with yellow fever and cholera epidemics and is close to eradicating a measles outbreak.

The U.N. appealed for nearly $700 million for humanitarian needs in the DRC this year, but has just received over half the amount, enabling it to assist almost 6 million people. Diallo said nearly 8 million Congolese were expected to need aid next year.