A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
On the day the UN’s head of emergency response, Valerie Amos, visits the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Oxfam urges the United Nations not to fail communities cut off from much-needed assistance. The UN must plan for funding that reflects the level of need on the ground and better protect communities from attack, says the international agency.
Tens of thousands of people are stranded without help in the east of the country either because of insecurity or because of international funding shortfalls.
“Getting essential relief to people who have fled their homes or suffered brutal violence is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous”, said Marcel Stoessel Head of Oxfam in DRC. “Without the funding and relative security, it is very difficult for us to reach those most in need.”
In the far north-eastern region of DRC, where the most brutal and longest-running rebel group in Africa, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), continues to terrorise communities, insecurity is hampering the delivery of desperately-needed relief. Other parts of the east are feeling the effects of last year’s funding gap and agencies are concerned that a drop in this year’s UN-led annual funding request will mean many more go without assistance in 2011.
The first two months of this year have seen a spike in violence and displacement in DRC. The LRA has continued to attack poor and remote communities on almost a daily basis, with more than 50 attacks in just over 60 days. In January alone the predatory rebel group launched more attacks, abducted more children and killed more innocent civilians than over the whole of the preceding three months.
In Dakwa, Bas-Uélé, humanitarian agencies have been unable to reach more than 13,000 people who have fled LRA attacks for a year now as a result of ongoing insecurity. Formal requests from the humanitarian community for a deployment of UN peacekeepers to help secure access were first made over six months ago but still those people live without protection or aid. Projected budget cuts and a reduction in the number of transport helicopters within the UN mission is only going to make these problems worse.
Further south, in South Kivu more than 200 people sought post-rape medical care over the space of a few weeks in January and February alone. But insecurity in the province has affected the aid response with attacks against aid workers increasing by more than 100% since 2009.
Across the whole of the east where instability continues to cause huge suffering, more than 1.7 million people remain unable to return home, largely because it is unsafe to do so. Yet the 2011 Humanitarian Action Plan budget – the UN-led annual funding request to donors – saw a 13% decrease against 2010, and a 24% drop from 2009, while levels of displacement, violence against civilians and humanitarian need remain substantially the same.
"The humanitarian and peacekeeping responses simply do not match the huge levels of need on the ground,” said Stoessel. “We are failing the ordinary women, children, and men of eastern DRC. It is unacceptable that we leave people cut off from vital aid because of a shortage of security and funding."
Notes to editors
1. The Humanitarian Action Plan is the UN and humanitarian community’s plan for the year including the estimated funding for the year ahead.
2. After the under-funding of the 2010 Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) – only 59% of projected needs covered by mid-November, DRC’s Humanitarian Action Plan for 2011 has a budget of $719 million, reduced from $828 million last year and $946 million in 2009.
3. UNHCR have reported that since January the LRA has intensified its attacks in Orientale province, killing some 35 people, abducting 104 others and displacing more than 17,000 people. Since the start of the year there have been reports of 52 raids.
4. UN OCHA documented 202 attacks on humanitarian workers in 2010, a 10% increase against the previous year overall, and up over 100% in South Kivu.
5. Oxfam is currently assisting more than 800,000 people in DRC providing clean water, sanitation and supporting communities with food security, access to education and protection.
For more information contact:
- Pierre Peron in the DRC, on +243 991 888 673/ +243 815 348 052 or email@example.com
- Anna Ridout in the UK on +44 (0)1865 473415/ +44 (0)7766 443506 or firstname.lastname@example.org