23 June 2023
Kinshasa – The number of internally displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has more than doubled to 6.3 million since the end of 2022 amid a spike in conflict and insecurity, as well as natural disasters and disease outbreaks that are deepening the plight of millions of people and exponentially heightening health needs.
The worst-affected eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu where about 6 million people have been uprooted by violence since March 2022 are also witnessing an upsurge in infectious diseases. In North Kivu, more than 17 000 cholera cases and 148 deaths have been reported since December 2022. The disease has also affected neighbouring South Kivu. The two provinces alone account for 82% of the more than 136 000 measles cases, including 2000 deaths, recorded in the country so far this year.
In addition to the armed violence, flooding earlier this year affected 36 health facilities in North Kivu, South Kivu, Kasai and Tshopo provinces, further increasing health needs. During an outbreak of violence in North Kivu in October 2022, at least 32 health facilities were looted or damaged, limiting access to services.
In Mai-Ndombe, Kasai and Tshopo provinces, flooding and inter-community violence have uprooted nearly 100 000 people. Around 18 000 measles cases and 444 deaths have been recorded in the three provinces.
United Nations humanitarian agencies have sounded the alarm over the rising humanitarian needs in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and called for an immediate step-up of operations to assist the affected population. With the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Mai-Ndombe, Kasai and Tshopo, World Health Organization (WHO) is also immediately scaling up emergency health assistance to respond to the rising needs.
WHO has activated its maximum level of organizational response to the humanitarian crisis in the affected provinces. In scaling up its response, the Organization will focus on bolstering access to essential health care services including mental health, gender-based violence and vaccination, early warning and surveillance, provision of lifesaving medicines and supplies, and prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse among the vulnerable population.
“The worsening insecurity has taken a heavy toll on millions of people already faced with dire living conditions deprived of critical basic services such as health,” said Dr Boureima Hama Sambo, WHO Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “With partners, we are determined to step up our assistance to ensure those most in need have access to lifesaving health services.”
The major health needs include basic emergency health care, including reproductive health services, mental health and psychosocial support and care for victims of gender-based violence as well as trauma. Ensuring access to essential health services by the vulnerable population, along with strengthening disease surveillance, prevention and response to outbreaks are all crucial for the emergency health response. Other priority areas of health response include disease prevention and routine vaccination, cholera, measles and polio control as well as rehabilitation of health facility equipment.
This year, at least US$ 174 million are required to provide urgent health assistance. However, just US$ 23 million, or 13%, have been mobilized.
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