THE UK has pledged more money in aid than the EU or the United States in a conference to raise funds for the “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The United Nations estimates that $1.68 billion is needed to provide urgent support for 10.5 million people this year, but only a third of that was received in pledges at last week’s humanitarian conference in Geneva. The UK was the biggest donor, pledging $141 million. The European Commission pledged $95.2 million, the US, $67 million; the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, $47.8 million; and Belgium, $30.9 million.
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said that, although the target had not been met, the conference had made “good progress”, and donations were more than the previous year’s total of $467 million.
The UN has declared that the humanitarian crisis facing the DRC is at Level 3 — the body’s highest-level emergency. He described it as catastrophic.
But the DRC’s own government had boycotted the conference, saying that the scale of the humanitarian crisis had been inflated by the UN, and the country was being given a “bad image”.
Aid agencies, while welcoming the pledges, said that they have already had to cut back on life-saving help because of last year’s under-funding, and warned that they would not be able to help millions of people in dire need.
The director of World Vision DRC, Anne-Marie Connor, said: “We are thankful for the generosity of donors but $1.7 billion was needed and the pledges so far, while they will begin to address the most urgent needs, mean that organisations are going to have to turn people away. We will continue to have to make really difficult choices about how we use funds, who we turn away.
“There are really significant needs among children and we have the opportunity to have a real impact in terms of providing support for a future generation, so they aren’t impacted by the crisis in the future — but to help the next generation, we need funding now.”
Speaking after the conference from her home in Kinshasa, she said that ongoing global crises — including the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, as well as the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar — meant that donors were struggling to meet all demands for humanitarian aid.
World Vision estimates that up to eight million children in DRC are in urgent need of support if they are to survive and thrive.
PAAn international conference to help the DRC opened at the UNs’ Office in Geneva on Friday of last week
The Roman Catholic Church in Congo sent a delegation to the conference. It is at the forefront of the humanitarian response in the DRC. The RC aid agency CAFOD said that church families are housing those who had fled violence, even though they had very little to share, and many were living on just one meal a day.
Cafod’s representative in the DRC, Bernard Balibuno, said: “I met Kavuro, a single mother of four children who fled her village because a militia group — the Allied Democratic Forces — looted and killed people in her area. She is living with a host family from her church, but they are also very poor.
“In such a terrible situation, host families share their already limited resources with families like Kavuro’s, despite seeing their own humanitarian situation deteriorate day by day.”
The background to the current crisis in the DRC is complex, with armed conflicts, corruption, and a political crisis all contributing.