By Lisa Schlein
The United Nations (UN) has issued a flash appeal for US$64.5 million to provide emergency assistance over the next six months to hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s southern Kasai, Lomami and Sankuru provinces.
The UN reports that more than a million people have been forcibly displaced since violence erupted in August when government soldiers killed a local tribal leader in Kasai province. Over the past eight months, the violence between militia and government forces has intensified and expanded to Lomami and Sankuru provinces.
Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said children are at extreme risk and in need protection. He said many women have been raped and need medical care and psychological counseling. “The violence behind the displacement has already led to civilian deaths in the hundreds and human rights violations, including the discovery of mass graves, and severely disrupted people’s livelihoods and education of thousands of children,” he said. “It has also exacerbated the risks of malnutrition and epidemics in a region already known for high malnutrition rates and a weak health system.”
Laerke said the flash appeal is on top of the regular $750-million humanitarian response plan for the DRC. He told VOA the additional money is urgently required to deal with the humanitarian needs, which he described as astronomical. “To have one million displaced is really a lot of people,” he said, “We know that affects every aspect of life, including the ability for families to access food and to obtain the nutrition for the children that they need. So, it is indeed a very acute concern.”
Laerke said the crisis is worsening pre-existing tensions between communities and ethnic groups, and it also has driven tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in neighboring Angola.