|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
DECEMBER 9, 2004
|CONTACT: International Rescue Committee
Melissa Winkler (New York), 212-551-0972 or 646-734-0305 or melissa@theIRC.org
Alyoscia D'Onofrio (Kinshasa), 243-818-802-088 or 243-816-588-366
IRC Study Reveals 31,000 Die Monthly in Congo Conflict, 3.8 Million Died in Past Six Years, When Will the World Pay Attention? Asks IRC
NEW YORK, NY -- December 9 -- Amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) issued a mortality survey today which finds that more than 3.8 million people have died there since the start of the war in August 1998 and more than 31,000 civilians continue to die monthly as a result of the conflict.|
"DR Congo remains by far the deadliest crisis in the world, but year after year the conflict festers and the international community fails to take effective action," says the IRC's Dr. Richard Brennan, one of the study's authors. "In a matter of six years, the world lost a population equivalent to the entire country of Ireland or the city of Los Angeles. How many innocent Congolese have to perish before the world starts paying attention?"
The latest mortality study, a joint effort by the IRC and Australia's Burnet Institute, is among the most comprehensive ever conducted in a conflict zone, covering 19,500 households. Mortality data was collected for the period between Jan. 2003 and April 2004.
In Iraq, where Sadaam Hussein's years of brutality, the effects of sanctions and three wars have led to far fewer casualties than DR Congo, the 2003 aid budget was $3.5 billion or $138 per person. Precise aid figures for 2004 were unavailable. The desperate situation in Darfur, Sudan, where an estimated 70,000 people have died and some two million have been displaced, has led to more than $530 million in foreign aid for 2004 or $89 for each person. In spite of DR Congo's rank as the deadliest recorded conflict since World War II, the world's humanitarian response in 2004 was a total of $188 million in aid or a scant $3.23 per person.
"The international response to the humanitarian crisis in Congo has been grossly inadequate in proportion to need," says Brennan. "Our findings show that improving and maintaining security and increasing simple, proven and cost-effective interventions such as basic medical care, immunizations and clean water would save hundreds of thousands of lives in Congo. There's no shortage of evidence. It's sustained compassion and political will that's lacking."
The peace accords of 2002 fueled hope that the years of slaughter, displacement, sexual violence and desperation would come to an end. The subsequent deployment of international peacekeeping troops coincided with the withdrawal of foreign forces, leading to increased stability and humanitarian access and a dramatic decline in mortality. A new transitional government was established, tasked with reunifying the country.
In spite of all these advances, DR Congo is now dangerously close to sliding back into full-scale war. Political progress has stalled, the reduction in mortality has plateaued and a series of violent incidents threaten to undermine the peace process and destabilize the region. At this time, Rwanda is threatening to attack Hutu extremists in DR Congo, while numerous reports indicate an incursion has already taken place. This follows an explosion of violence in the eastern city of Bukavu in June and the brutal August massacre of nearly 160 Congolese Tutsi refugees at a camp in Burundi.
Urgent action is needed to restore stability, strengthen the peace process and address the underlying causes of the conflict. The IRC makes the following recommendations:
For more information or to arrange interviews, see contacts above.
The complete report and information about the IRC's work in DR Congo can be found on the IRC's web site: http://www.theIRC.org.
Founded in 1933, the nonprofit, nonsectarian International Rescue Committee is a global leader in providing humanitarian relief, rehabilitation, protection, post-conflict development, advocacy and resettlement services for refugees and others uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression. The IRC is committed to freedom, human dignity and self-reliance.
The IRC has been working in DR Congo since 1996 and maintains one of the largest humanitarian aid programs in the country. The IRC runs extensive health, water, shelter and sanitation programs. They support initiatives to help street children and victims of sexual violence. Our programs are designed to help local communities meet urgent needs and find long-term solutions.