Close to 1.7 million people fled violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019, putting the country on top of the list of most newly internally displaced in Africa, and second globally after Syria.
With over 5 million people internally displaced in total, DR Congo hosts more than one tenth of the 50 million people internally displaced across the world, according to a report released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
Conflict and violence continue to force tens of thousands of Congolese to flee their homes in the eastern provinces of Ituri, South Kivu and North Kivu, where military operations, armed groups attacks and upsurges in intercommunal tensions wreak havoc. In Ituri alone, the level of violence against civilians in the last month displaced about 200,000 people.
“The escalation of armed hostilities at the moment when Covid-19 arrives is a catastrophic cocktail poised to trigger chaos,” warned Maureen Philippon, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in DR Congo. “The Congolese people need peace and stability during the pandemic more than ever before.”
Hunger and conflict are also fuelling one another to worsen the humanitarian crisis. DR Congo is now the second largest hunger crisis in the world after Yemen. The number of people going hungry has more than doubled in three years, standing at over 15 million today. On top of that, some 3 million children are acutely malnourished.
“When a family is forced to flee in Congo they lose their land, miss the harvest and their livelihood crumbles. It takes years for a them to recover and it’s a daily struggle to put food on their children’s plates,” said Philippon.
Due to the sharp increase of newly displaced people combined with the overall lack of funding, aid organisations capacities are overstretched. Almost 16 million people need humanitarian assistance in 2020, according to the United Nations.
- In the north-eastern province of Ituri, Intercommunal violence led to 453,000 new displacements over the year 2019 and about 200,000 for April 2020 alone.
- In North Kivu, clashes between armed groups and the country’s armed forces led to 520,000 displacements in 2019.
- In South Kivu, an escalation of conflict between armed groups and intercommunal violence caused 401,000 new displacements in 2019.
- Between January and May 2020, over 13 million are expected to be severely acutely food insecure, with more than 3.6 million in ‘emergency’ phase of hunger.
- 46 per cent of children under five years are stunted and chronically malnourished (USAID).