Oxfam: Rich countries must fund ballot boxes and bread as 42 million lives in balance ahead of Congo donors conference

Published: 13 February 2006

Brussels: In a new report released today, international agency Oxfam urges rich countries to step up to the mark and respond generously to the massive humanitarian crisis and lack of security in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) when they meet in Brussels today.

While donors are rightly investing over $450 million in support of the electoral process planned for April 29th 2006, Oxfam is calling on donors not to ignore the humanitarian appeal for $682 million to provide urgently needed aid for 42 million people.

“The donor conference must set the tone for the future of the DRC,” said Oxfam’s DRC Country Program Manager Gordon Kihuguru. “The democratic process is vital in the long-term but providing millions of people with enough food and water to survive each day and working to bring peace has to be the immediate priority as dead people cannot vote.

“Donor governments must rise to the challenge of meeting real needs across the country at a critical point of both humanitarian crisis and democratic transition.”

No humanitarian appeal for DRC in the last five years has been more than three quarters funded at best with last year’s appeal raising just $136 million or 62% of what Congo required.

By contrast, $1.1 billion was pledged to the Tsunami appeal meeting 85% of the stated requirements.

Oxfam's report shows that this year’s appeal is three times bigger than last year based on a much more accurate reflection of need. Countries such as the US, Japan, Germany, France and Italy need to significantly increase their 2005 contributions to the DRC. Oxfam is calling on smaller donors such as Australia and Spain, who gave well below their fair share in 2005 to increase their contributions by a similar magnitude to take on the burden of one of the greatest tasks facing the humanitarian community today. If donors were to give the humanitarian action plan appeal according to their national income they would be making vastly increased contributions as illustrated in the table below.

Some countries make important aid contributions bilaterally and via the EU, meeting vital needs. However, these are not a substitute for contributions to the UN Humanitarian Action Plan, especially with its threefold budget increase. The scale of need is too great.

Currently one thousand people in the DRC die every day as a result of the conflict which has claimed the lives of 3.9 million people since 1998. The country lacks basic infrastructure and most services have collapsed including the health system that is unable to cope with the level of disease. The conflict has created widespread food shortages and pockets of acute malnutrition.

The human cost of the conflict in the DRC continues into 2006 despite the hopes for peace offered by the 2003 Global and All-Inclusive Accord. Even though a government was formed in 2003, the underlying causes of the war have not been adequately addressed.

“In the rush to support democratic elections donor governments must not forget the thousands of deaths weekly caused by the horrific conflict raging in the east of the country,” said Oxfam’s Kihuguru. “People will continue to pay with their lives until donor governments come up with vital funds for food, water and healthcare to reach the millions in need.”

Oxfam has been working in the DRC since the 1960s providing emergency assistance including water, sanitation and public health to 300,000 in the eastern DRC. Countrywide Oxfam is working on education and livelihoods programs.

Read Oxfam's report: "Meeting real needs: a major change for donors to the Democratic Republic of the Congo 2006"

Contact Information

For a copy of Oxfam’s report “Meeting real needs: a major change for donors” or to view the league table of how much donor countries are giving to the DRC please contact:
Louis Belanger in Brussels on: +32 4 73 562 260 or +32 2 502 03 91