The Reality of Aid Network expresses concern over the ongoing humanitarian crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in light of the recent Mount Nyiragongo eruption, compounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ebola outbreak, ongoing conflict and intercommunal violence, and chronic poverty and inequality.

Statement of the Reality of Aid Network on the ongoing crises in the DRC

The Reality of Aid Network expresses concern over the ongoing humanitarian crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in light of the recent Mount Nyiragongo eruption, compounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ebola outbreak, ongoing conflict and intercommunal violence, and chronic poverty and inequality. The first half of 2021 has not afforded the people of the DRC any sense of relief as they encountered successive and multiple crises brought by intensifying violence, the pandemic, and natural disasters.

In the beginning of May, the Congolese government declared a ‘state of siege’ in an effort to address escalating violence in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces, but with underlying concerns of potential human rights abuses,[1] aggravating the impact of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu.[2] The surge in Ebola cases came less than a year after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an earlier outbreak was over.[3] Within the same month, Mount Nyiragongo in Goma, North Kivu erupted, leaving in its wake over 20,000 people forcibly displaced, 40 reported missing, and at least 32 dead.[4]

The DRC remains the fifth most fragile state in the world in 2021. Delivery of social services has been an increasing concern since 2019. Issues of refugees and internally-displaced persons have been unresolved since 2017. Rising economic inequality and persistent conflicts hound any prospect for lasting peace in the country.[5] Intercommunal violence driven by factionalized elites remain a stark indicator of fragility, as shown by the ongoing conflict among various groups: the DRC’s military forces (FARDC), ISIL-linked Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP), and the Congolese Revolutionary Army otherwise known as the March 23 Movement in the Kivu region.

The COVID-19 response in the DRC has been equally bleak. While the DRC is one of the first countries in Africa to receive vaccines from the COVAX facility, support for vaccine rollout has been tremendously lacking. Despite receiving 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in early March 2021, the DRC had to return 1.3 million doses after determining it cannot possibly administer the vaccines before the doses expire in June due to serious shortages in medical personnel and facilities.[6] As of writing, only 23,197 vaccine doses have been administered in the country populated by 86.79 million.[7]

UNICEF reported earlier in April that violence has fueled a humanitarian crisis with more than 1.6 million people displaced in Ituri out of a total population of 5.7 million, with some 2.8 million people in the region in need of emergency assistance.[8] In the background are unstable political coalitions under the current administration, and a risk that politicking and positioning ahead of the 2023 elections will overshadow governance reforms and stabilization measures, such as working with local communities and civil society to promote reconciliation, monitoring human rights, building the resilience of post-conflict communities, and providing social services, which are needed in the DRC, as raised by the UN Stabilization Mission in October last year.[9]

The DRC is often touted as one of the best examples that demonstrate the potential of triple nexus programming among humanitarian, development, and peace actors to solve such complex and interrelated development challenges. And while this high-level global initiative has made some breakthroughs, especially among humanitarian and development actors who are now more effectively responding to emerging crises with less constraints in funding or resource allocation, progress remains wanting.[10]

For instance, official development assistance (ODA) for the DRC has not recovered since the 51.5 percent drop from 2011 to 2012. ODA levels have remained at USD 2.1 to USD 3 billion between 2012 to 2019.[11] In 2017, only USD 476 million, which already composed 20% of the total ODA for the year, was available for humanitarian aid,[12] and only USD 433.1 million for health programs.[13] These figures pale in comparison to USD 14.77 billion worth of military assistance provided by the United States to its ODA recipients in 2017 alone. Indeed, development aid to DRC remain grossly insufficient to address the growing number of people in need of protection and assistance, notwithstanding the colossal challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic on the highly unstable public health and social services systems in the country.

The multiple challenges faced by many fragile and conflict-affected countries including the DRC highlight the urgency of reforms in development cooperation policy and practice – reforms that address the structural issues and root causes of conflict, poverty and inequality. The Reality of Aid Network stands in solidarity with the Congolese people and calls on the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to immediately address institutional barriers to implementing an effective, sustainable and people-centred crisis response strategy, such as issues of trilingualism, donor requirements which partner countries institutionally lack, compartmentalization, and insufficient funding and coordination with local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), in keeping with the commitments made in the DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus and other international agreements.

Likewise, the Reality of Aid Network reiterates its call for the donor community to meet, without further delay, their historic responsibility of 0.7% GNI-to-ODA ratio including, most especially the 0.15-0.20% ODA target for conflict-affected and fragile states. The situation in the DRC, especially in the North Kivu province, demonstrates the urgent need for development, humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts to align with effectiveness, human rights principles, accountability and transparency, and compliance with international humanitarian law instead of furthering state-backed security agendas often driven by donor interests in the region. At the same time, the situation highlights the need to empower local CSOs that are also the first responders in times of crisis.

[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/1/dr-congo-declares-state-of-siege-in-violence-hit-provinces

[2] https://www.who.int/emergencies/situations/ebola-2021-north-kivu

[3] https://www.afro.who.int/news/resurgence-ebola-north-kivu-democratic-republic-congo

[4] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/26/un-says-20000-homeless-40-missing-in-dr-congo-volcano-aftermath

[5] Fund For Peace. “Congo Democratic Republic, Country Dashboard.” Fragile States Index. Retrieved 1 Jun 2021 from: https://fragilestatesindex.org/country-data/

[6]https://www.devex.com/news/drc-to-return-1-3m-covax-vaccine-doses-before-expiry-99792

[7]https://covid19.who.int/region/afro/country/cd

[8]  https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/1/dr-congo-declares-state-of-siege-in-violence-hit-provinces

[9] https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/dr-congo-s-fragile-detente-could-yet-unravel-security-council

[10]Alcayna, T. (2019) Organisational Flexibility and Programming Across the Humanitarian–Development–Peace Nexus. ALNAP Spotlight Study. London: ODI/ALNAP. Retrieved 1 June 2021 from: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/programming%20flexibility.pdf

[11] The World Bank. “Net official development assistance received (current US$) – Congo, Dem. Rep.” Retrieved 1 June 2021 from: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/DT.ODA.ODAT.CD?locations=CD

[12] https://www.nrc.no/globalassets/pdf/reports/190621-output-iv-drc-report.pdf

[13] https://www.who.int/research-observatory/indicators/oda_per_capita_Jan2019/en/

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