DR Congo humanitarian crisis must not ‘fall off’ world’s radar – UN deputy relief chief

4 September 2015 – Wrapping up a four-day mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang, called strongly today for creative ways to reignite donor engagement and ensure that one of the world’s most protracted crises does not “fall off the humanitarian radar.”

Ms. Kang, who is also the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, travelled to the DRC to assess the scope of the humanitarian crisis, better understand the challenges faced by humanitarian actors in the response, and ensure the DRC crisis remains on the agenda of donors and the greater international community.

Ms. Kang’s trip included a visit to the Mugunga 3 camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), in the outskirts of Goma in North Kivu, one of the oldest in the country. The camp, “home” to some 5,000 displaced people, is a symbol of the impact of the dwindling support for and attention to the DRC humanitarian crisis.

Although needs for all residents in the camps remain significant, only the most vulnerable among them receive food rations, and this is only 50 per cent of the required amounts. Moreover, the camp’s only health facility has been closed for months, given the shortage of funds to keep it operational.

“I’ve seen many IDP camps during my many missions around the world, but Mugunga is one of the worst because the environment and living conditions are so harsh. UN agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are doing their best to provide the much needed assistance but, in order to enhance the response, they require additional financial resources,” Ms. Kang said.

She added that Mugunga 3 was also a strong symbol of resilience and hope due to the determination of the IDPs to improve their living conditions, as shown by the 100 women benefiting from an income-generating soap-making project that she visited on the site.

While in the eastern city of Goma, the senior humanitarian official also held discussions with the Governor of North Kivu, notably on the issue of IDP camp closures. They agreed that closer dialogue would be held regularly between the authorities and the humanitarian community to ensure that any camp closure be carried out in line with international principles, including the Kampala Convention ratified by DRC, and in full respect of the wish of the people to be affected.

The need to work together on durable solutions for IDP returns was also raised, and the necessity to better link humanitarian and development programming in specific areas and contexts.

Ms. Kang also travelled to the neighbouring province of South Kivu where she visited Lusenda, the newly established camp for refugees from Burundi, home to 8,000 out of the 15,000 people who have crossed into the DRC since the beginning of the Burundi crisis. The other 7,000 have been living with host families who very generously share their limited resources with the refugees. However, capacity is overstretched and the spectre of financial constraints is looming. While the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has given $6.8 million to provide an emergency multi-sectoral response, if additional resources are not made available soon, many of the operations in Lusenda would have to close down, Ms. Kang said.

In Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu, Ms. Kang, who last visited DRC two years ago, held very productive discussions with the Congolese authorities who expressed their willingness to move the country forward on the path to economic growth and development.

In that framework, Ms. Kang stressed the necessity to ensure that “no Congolese is left behind” in the efforts to advance the country, as development cannot be sustainable unless the needs of the most vulnerable people are adequately addressed.

“We need new creative ways – a new compelling narrative to ensure continued support by the donors and international community, to what remains one of the world’s most complex and protracted emergencies.”

Human Rights