The humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is dire. Over 27 million people (one in three of the population) do not have enough to eat, and 7 million people are now just one step away from catastrophe. To put these figures into context, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the country with the greatest need of assistance in the world.
The DRC is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and has an estimated population of 90 million people. Despite being rich in natural resources and minerals, decades of violent conflict have left the DRC one of the poorest countries in the world, with approximately 72% of the population living in extreme poverty.
Ongoing violence and instability have resulted in over 5 million Congolese people being internally displaced within the country, representing the third largest population of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the world, and the largest in Africa. Added to this ongoing security crisis, the DRC has also been confronted with several Ebola outbreaks in recent years, and is now grappling with Covid-19 and an increasingly severe hunger crisis.
Throughout 2021, renewed armed conflict has significantly disrupted livelihoods in several regions of the DRC. Meanwhile, Covid-19 has had a major impact on food prices, and country-wide economic decline has led to families being unable to buy food and other necessities. As a consequence, there are now more people facing a severe hunger crisis in the DRC than has ever been recorded in any country.
According to a recent evaluation of the situation, 27.3 million people are currently facing severe or acute food insecurity in the DRC. Almost 7 million people face emergency levels of food insecurity, meaning that they are on the brink famine. UNICEF estimates that as many as 3.4 million children under the age of five in the DRC will suffer from acute malnutrition this year.
The DRC is the biggest food security crisis in the world. However, despite this, there is a high possibility that funding to the DRC is to be cut significantly.
The UK is the DRC’s second-biggest donor. Compared with most other countries, the DRC receives very little aid per person, meaning that help from the UK makes a big difference.
However, at a time when need has never been greater in the DRC, there are reports which suggest UK aid to the country could be reduced by up to 60%. This would have devastating consequences.
UK Aid has been crucial for the provision of essential humanitarian assistance through food and cash transfers to the most at-risk communities in the DRC. At the same time it has enabled access to vital nutrition, water and sanitation, and education services to the most vulnerable population groups in the country. But if the reports of a 60 percent cut are true, this could mean hundreds of thousands of people lose access to life-saving humanitarian aid, while efforts that have helped support millions in the DRC to escape extreme poverty, will stall.
The human cost of this decision would be devastating and will impact generations to come.