2021 in Review
Humanitarian situation in 2021
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains one of the world’s most complex and protracted humanitarian crises. While the situation has remained stable or improved in some areas in 2021, armed conflict and natural disasters continue to cause significant population movements in the east of the country as well as numerous protection incidents, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri where a state of siege was declared in May 2021. Much of the population lacks access to quality basic services, public development and social protection policies are inadequate to reach the most vulnerable.
The DRC has the highest number of displaced people in Africa, and one of the highest numbers globally. There are 5.5 million internally displaced persons, some 1.2 million returnees and 517,140 refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring countries. In 2021 alone, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced, due to attacks, armed clashes, or land and intercommunal conflicts. A number of these people had to move several times because of the continuing violence. In May 2021, the Nyiragongo volcano in the province of North Kivu erupted and about 364,000 people were temporarily displaced to other territories.
From January to October 2021, 49,661 cases of human rights violations were recorded. This reflects the deterioration of the security situation in the conflict provinces, particularly Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Tanganyika. Gender-based violence (GBV) and serious violations against children’s rights are still significant issues. Between January and September 2021, 74,275 cases of GBV were reported, an 80 per cent increase over the same period in 2020. Women and girls are the majority of those affected (94 per cent of cases). During this same period, 1,540 grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict were documented, which continues to show that children are particularly affected by these conflicts.
Food insecurity and acute malnutrition
The DRC has the world’s largest population of food insecure, with 27 million people affected. People in crisis and emergency phases (IPC phases 3 or higher) are mostly in conflict-affected areas. Nearly 4.2 million people are acutely malnourished, including 2.4 million children under the age of five. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition is 6.5 per cent and chronic malnutrition is 42 per cent.
Twenty-one diseases with epidemic potential were under surveillance in the DRC, six were epidemic in 2021 (compared with five in 2020): cholera, measles, COVID-19, Ebola virus disease (EVD), polio, and malaria. The limited access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation and low vaccination coverage in the country favors the spread of disease. Risk is higher among displaced communities.
Between March 2020 and 31 October 2021, over 57,588 cases were reported, including 1,098 deaths, in 264 health zones . All 26 provinces in the country are now affected. Since 2020, restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are still negatively affecting the local economy and exacerbating vulnerabilities.
In early October 2021, the 13th outbreak of EVD was declared in the province of North Kivu, five months after the official end of the previous outbreak in the neighboring Butembo area. On 16 December 2021, the Congolese authorities announced the end of the epidemic. Of the 11 registered patients (eight confirmed, three potential), nine died of the virus.
The operations of humanitarian actors are negatively affected in some areas due to insecurity, lack of infrastructure and the physical isolation of certain areas of the country, and administrative obstacles, such as difficulties for several NGOs to finalize the registration process in country. Persistent violence affecting humanitarian organizations remain a concern. From January to October 2021, 260 security incidents directly affecting humanitarian staff and assets were reported, with seven humanitarian workers killed, 26 injured and 23 abducted. North Kivu and Ituri are the most affected provinces. In these regions in particular, insecurity and transport difficulties disrupt the efforts of affected populations to access the few essential services available.