Crisis in Congo

Since 1998, an estimated 5.4 million people have lost their lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the deadliest conflict since the Second World War.

Since April 2012, nearly 760,000 people have fled their homes in eastern DRC due to renewed conflict. Oxfam aims to reach 230,000 people affected by the latest upsurge in violence.

While DR Congo (DRC) is a country abundantly rich in resources, it has struggled to realise its full potential since independence.

Thousands of people displaced by conflict in DR Congo are still unable to return home. Photo: Tineke D'haese/Oxfam Worsening insecurity and violent conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo are creating a severe humanitarian crisis. The civilian population faces killings, forced recruitment of children, extortion, pillaging and sexual violence at the hands of numerous armed groups and even the Congolese security forces.

Those who have fled their homes have an urgent need of healthcare, clean water, food, shelter and protection from violence. Without immediate support, hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Congo will suffer even further.

The situation: September, 2012

The new displacement in North and South Kivu has brought the number of displaced people in DRC to more than 2 million, the highest figure since 2009.

In April, former fighters from the rebel CNDP group, who had been integrated into the Congolese army (FARDC), mutinied and took control of an area close to the Uganda and Rwanda borders. In response the FARDC deployed troops from across eastern Congo to fight the “M23” rebellion and protect major towns. Tens of thousands of people have fled the resulting conflict, but the redeployment of the army has also left a massive security vacuum in other areas, which has allowed other rebel groups and militia to reassert their control, often attacking and abusing civilians, many of whom have been left without any protection.

People in North and South Kivu have lived for months with constant instability, and decades of conflict and marginalisation have eroded people’s ability to cope with cyclical crises. The most urgent needs now are to get humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict, and for ordinary people to be better protected by the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers. But the underlying causes of conflict – such as poverty, the need for army reform, tensions over land and resources, and international responses that do not take local opinions and solutions into account – must also be addressed so that people can live in peace.

Oxfam is there

  • Oxfam teams are providing clean water and sanitation to around 55,000 people who have fled the violence and are now sheltering in desperate conditions in Kanyaruchinya on the edge of Goma.
  • The porous volcanic lava in the area means there is little water available in the ground, so Oxfam teams are bringing water into the camp by trucks as a short term solution – while also lobbying for people to be moved to a more secure and sustainable location.
  • Oxfam workers are constructing around 700 latrines and 120 showers to improve sanitation in the camp, and our public health teams are conducting mass information campaigns to reduce the risk of diseases such as cholera.
  • Oxfam is also responding in the Mugunga 1 camp, where several thousand people have arrived following an increase in inter-ethnic violence. Our response focuses on providing clean water and sanitation in the camp, and supporting the most vulnerable residents by providing cash to help them get back on their feet. Oxfam has ongoing programmes in other conflict affected parts of North and South Kivu.
  • In Mweso we are providing clean water and working with local protection committees to help communities stand up for their rights. In Beni, our emergency food security, water, sanitation and protection programmes are reaching over 160,000 people.

Background to the conflict

Video: Fleeing violence in the Congo

The five-year conflict

The 1998-2003 conflict in the DR Congo saw huge loss of life. Four million people died, some as a direct result of the violence, but many more from starvation and disease.

The war was between government forces, backed by Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, and rebel factions, supported by Rwanda and Uganda.

Fighting was fuelled by the DR Congo’s vast mineral resources and by the flow of small arms into the country.

  • An estimated 5.4 million people dead since 1998.
  • Around 1 million people made homeless.
  • Rape used as a systematic weapon of war.
  • Until recently, a fragile peace had seen some people begin to return to their homes, though many more continued to remain in camps.

A long way to go

In some places people are returning to their villages. Helping communities rebuild their lives will be a major task.

  • Up to 1 million people have been living in camps for displaced people within the DR Congo
  • A million more people sought refuge in neighbouring Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi
  • People have lost virtually everything – family, friends, homes and their means of making a living
  • Rebel troops need to be reintegrated into the army
  • The systematic practice of rape and sexual slavery has led to the rapid advance of HIV and AIDS

Latest news

Eastern Congo faces insecurity and cholera threat

February 8, 2013

Over 700,000 vulnerable according to UN as region is hit by increased militarisation, poor harvest and little access to clean water.

Millions at the mercy of militias in Congo

December 20, 2012

Oxfam warns of risk of war on top of the daily violence and abuse people already face.

Growing crisis in eastern Congo

November 26, 2012

As the humanitarian crisis in eastern Congo grows, with thousands of people fleeing new fighting in the past 48 hours, Oxfam is stepping up the supply of life-saving aid to more than 80,000 people in and around Goma.

Latest blogs

Rwanda 20 years on

April 10, 2014

Twenty years ago, the world stood by and watched as over 1,000,000 people in Rwanda were killed in 100 days.  Aid agencies saw what was happening and tried in vain to persuade Western governments to fulfil their obligations and intervene to stop the killing.

News blog: our emergency response to the crisis in Congo

November 19, 2008

Latest from Congo: Francoise's story - Rebecca Wynn - November 19, 2008  

You can help with future emergencies

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