The humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is very serious across the country, especially in the eastern provinces of Katanga (particularly North Katanga), North and South Kivu and Province Orientale (especially Ituri district). The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that approximately 1.6 million people are internally displaced and over 300,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries.
Increased conflict in North Katanga since November last year has led to a rise in displacement and this has contributed to a much higher monthly average of new displacements in 2006 compared to 2005, at over 100,000 newly displaced per month compared to 35,000 per month last year. It is hoped that the recent surrender of a Mayi-Mayi commander from that region may lead to greater stability.
Elsewhere in the East, external armed groups such as the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) in the Kivus and other rebels groups operating in Ituri, as well as ill-disciplined brigades of the DRC army, are committing abuses such as theft and violence, including high levels of sexual violence, against the civilian population. Operations by the Congolese army against the armed groups, often carried out jointly with MONUC (UN Peacekeeping force in the DRC), are frequently the cause of civilian displacement.
Mechanisms are in place to get assistance to those who need it quickly, but lack of access due to insecurity and logistical difficulties can lead to delays.
The UK has strongly supported efforts by the UN to mobilise greater international funding to meet humanitarian needs. DFID has increased UK humanitarian support to the DRC to £60 million over two years. Some other countries have also increased funding, but overall support remains far too low to meet all the needs. The DRC remains a neglected crisis. I have called on my donor counterparts to do more and will continue to keep up the pressure to ensure that funding is forthcoming to meet all the desperate needs in the DRC.