Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – In depth

The five-year war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which involved the armies of five other countries, officially ended in 2003 and democratic elections were held in 2006. However, fighting involving a plethora of armed groups continues, especially in the east of this mineral-rich country. Throughout all this conflict it is the civilians who continue to suffer the most.

The DRC has the world's largest peacekeeping force, totaling some 17,000 personnel. But they struggle to maintain security in a country the size of Western Europe with a population of 60 million.

Fighting was fuelled by the DRC’s tremendous mineral resources and by the flow of small arms into the country.

Humanitarian crisis

Since the war started in 1997, an estimated 4 million people have died from violence, hunger and disease as a result of the conflict, and 2.5 million have been made homeless – 1.5 million displaced within the DRC’s borders and one million forced to flee to neighboring countries.

Civilians are still being attacked and displaced: an upsurge in violence in September and October 2007 forced more than 170,000 people from their homes in North Kivu province
Of immense concern is the systematic use of rape to intimidate the population. Some 40,000 women and girls have been raped since the conflict started.

Humanitarian needs are enormous. Many displaced people have sought refuge in the forest. They live in appalling conditions without shelter or access to clean water and health services. The lucky ones reach makeshift camps and shelters in overburdened towns and villages.

Oxfam’s response

Oxfam’s main activities involve providing clean water and sanitation facilities and promoting good health and hygiene practices in an attempt to minimize the spread of disease in these camps.

We are also providing basic services to communities returning to their villages. These include providing water and sanitation facilities and basic education. We are also undertaking peace-building projects and offering support to people to resume their livelihoods.

We will continue to work at a national and international level to ensure that the people of the DRC get the support they need to return home and rebuild their lives.