The humanitarian situation in DRC deteriorated severely in 2012, for large part due to the rise in violence and conflict in the east of the country. Following President Kabila’s re-election and the appointment of a new Prime Minister and Government in April 2012, the rise of the March 23 Movement (M23) armed group led to a rapid deterioration of the security situation in North Kivu and elsewhere in the east of the DRC. Tensions also increased with Rwanda, which the DRC government and Kinshasa and the UN Security Council Expert Group accused of backing M23. Throughout 2012, the DRC Government, the UN and Regional Organizations such as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern Africa Development Community, focused on finding a political solution to the recurring conflicts in eastern DRC. OCHA made several high level presentations on how the conflict continues to negatively impact the humanitarian situation in the eastern part of DR Congo.
By the end of 2012, more than 2.6 million people were internally displaced, compared with almost 1.8 million at the beginning of the year. Half a million new displacements occurred in North Kivu province due to intensified military operations between the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and M23 and increased activity by other armed groups. South Kivu, Maniema and Katanga provinces were also affected by violence and displacement. The number of IDPs in Katanga rose from 55,000 to over 300,000 due to increased fighting between the FARD and local armed militia groups. Close to 170 suspected attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) were reported in the Haut Uélé and Bas-Uélé districts of Orientale Province which led to deaths of 22 civilians and the abduction of 131 people, many of which were children. Nearly 70 per cent of the nearly 500,000 IDPs in Oriental Province were a result of LRA activities.
Protection of civilians was a major humanitarian concern in 2012 due to recurrent conflict and violence in eastern DRC. All parties to the conflict, including elements of the FARDC, were blamed for attacks against civilians, including killing, looting and sexual violence.
DRC also continued to face other humanitarian challenges in 2012, including in the areas of health, food security and nutrition. A cholera outbreak which began in 2011 is not yet under control, while measles, polio and malaria continue to be of concern. An Ebola outbreak caused several deaths in Orientale Province. Some 6.3 million people are affected by food insecurity while 2.5 million children under-five suffer from acute malnutrition.
In 2012, OCHA led efforts helped ensure a rapid and sustained response to the multiple crises in the DRC in 2012. OCHA led the development and revision of the 2012 Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) on behalf of the humanitarian community, which provides the basis for a common humanitarian response strategy and outlines humanitarian needs and priorities in the DRC. Of the US$631 million provided by donors for humanitarian activities in the DRC in 2012, $568 million (or 90 per cent) was channeled through the OCHA-led HAP.
OCHA facilitated requests and approval for $32.7 million in Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) funding to address rapid response needs and underfunded gaps in the HAP (for food, logistics, nutrition, and health). In January 2012, OCHA helped the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) mobilize $9.1 million from the CERF to support the response to a major cholera outbreak. OCHA also helped secure CERF funding in response to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Kivus and an Ebola outbreak in Province Orientale. These efforts enabled humanitarian agencies to meet lifesaving needs of hundreds of thousands of people across DRC in a timely manner.
When fighting between FARDC and M23 escalated and 140,000 people were displaced in the Goma areas in November 2012, OCHA coordinated humanitarian agencies around a strategy focused the most urgent needs of displaced while it helped prepare for a more comprehensive response for when the security situation stabilized. As a result humanitarian partners redirected funding for immediate relief efforts and the OCHA-managed Pooled Fund was used to implement the strategy. Some 110,000 people received essential household items while 81,000 received food assistance within days.
OCHA engaged the leadership of the M23 armed group and convinced it to reverse its decision to impose taxes on NGOs working in areas under its control in Rutshuru territory (North Kivu). Eleven international NGOs and hundreds of local NGOs would have been forced to stop their operations. Instead they continued to provide emergency services to an estimated 300,000 vulnerable people in Rutshuru. In 2013, OCHA will continue engaging M23 and all other actors in the conflict to ensure a safe and unhindered access to the conflict-affected people in DRC.
Insecurity, poor infrastructure and other bureaucratic impediments continued to restrict humanitarian access in many areas in the country in 2012. Some 212 security incidents against humanitarian actors were recorded throughout the year, 31 more than in 2011. International NGOs were confronted with more administrative demands including excessive taxation. OCHA continued to engage the Government to help create a more enabling environment for humanitarian activities, including through establishing a “Permanent Coordination Forum” between relevant Government Ministries and the HCT.
There is a large and well-established humanitarian community in the DRC which includes UN agencies and programmes, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Organization for Migration, 200 international NGOs, 300 National NGOs and 10 donor government agencies.