The scale and complexity of humanitarian needs and protection concerns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are staggering. Chronic poverty and weak essential service systems, recurrent armed conflict, acute malnutrition and major epidemic outbreaks, including the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, are all heightening vulnerability.
UNICEF will be among the first responders providing a timely and integrated life-saving response to address the acute needs of people affected by forced displacements, natural disasters and public health emergencies. Using a localized approach, UNICEF will revitalize and strengthen the capacities of community-based organizations to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the humanitarian response, address immediate needs and reinforce the resilience of communities and systems.
UNICEF requires US$384.4 million to address the acute needs of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and uphold and promote their rights. Without timely and adequate funding to alleviate their suffering, the situation will continue to worsen.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Due to multifaceted conflicts, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to the second largest displaced population in the world. There are 5.2 million people internally displaced in the country, including 3 million children. Fifty per cent of displaced people were displaced in the last 12 months, which has created a protection crisis of unprecedented size.6 Displaced children are exposed to extreme violence, at heightened risk of abuse and live in precarious conditions with limited access to basic services such as drinking water, primary health care and education.
Four million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are in urgent need of protection.7 In the first half of 2020, as violence intensified in Ituri and North and South Kivu provinces, grave violations against children increased by 16 per cent.8 The prevalence of gender-based violence remains high, particularly in conflict-affected provinces. Nearly 30 per cent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 are survivors of gender-based violence.5 Women and children are also at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, with few avenues for reporting abuse and seeking assistance.
Access to social services and basic infrastructure remains limited across the country. Some 15 million Congolese in rural areas lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.9 In addition, 3.3 million children under 5 years are malnourished and 1 million children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).10 The socio-economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic is expected to further increase the number of children with SAM in 2021. Some 3 million vulnerable children aged 3 to 17 years lack access to quality education.11 The high prevalence of diseases with epidemic potential is deepening the complexity of the humanitarian situation. Less than half of all households have access to primary health care and only half of the children in these households have received the pentavalent vaccine.12 A new Ebola outbreak was declared on 1 June 2020 in the Equateur province, with 119 confirmed cases as of 25 October and a mortality rate of 42.3 percent.13 Over 14,400 suspected cholera cases have also been recorded.14
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed additional pressure on already fragile social and health systems. More than 11,000 cases have been reported since March 2020.15 COVID-19-related restrictions have limited livelihood opportunities and undermined access to markets, adding to humanitarian needs across the country. The pandemic has disrupted children's development, learning and well-being; and violence against women and girls is on the rise.