DR Congo rejects millions in humanitarian aid

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More than 80,000 people have fled their homes in Pool province surrounding Congo Republic’s capital since the government began a military operation there last year, a joint U.N. and government statement said. Image courtesy: Reuters

The U.N. says it has raised $209 million to help millions of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and hopes to raise nearly $2 billion more.  Officials in the DRC say thanks, but no thanks.

U.N. and European Union officials are hosting the first high-level intergovernmental pledge drive to drum up more humanitarian aid for Congo, but the Central African country’s government says the pledge drive hurts the country’s image. Its officials have downplayed the extent of the widespread hunger and displacement there.

Spokesman Jens Laerke with the U.N.’s Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs says it is “unfortunate” that President Joseph Kabila’s government “did not want to participate.”

The move has angered church groups and and civil society organizations in Congo.

“Beyond statistics, it is crucial that those in need are helped,” said the Deputy Secretary General of Congo’s National Episcopal Conference, Andre Masinganda. “This is where international support comes in.”

Congo’s Lay Coordinating Commission said in a statement it was “extremely surprised and dismayed” that the government did not want to speak of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Since the beginning of 2017, some 600,000 Congolese have fled the violence and general instability to other countries in the region. In addition, around 4.3 million people are now internally displaced, estimates OCHA, the UN office responsible for coordinating humanitarian affairs. DR Congo is also home to around 500,000 refugees from other countries.

The UN warned in March that the crisis in Congo was at a “breaking point”. During a trip to the country last week, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “Unfortunately, operations, refugee operations, humanitarian operations, in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to be underfunded everywhere.”

DR Congo’s Minister of Communications, Lambert Mende, said international organizations were deliberately “misrepresenting” refugee numbers in order to gain a “colossal budget.” “We do not call this international support, we call it marketing humanitarian aid.”

Congo won’t be able to attend the conference, Mende said, if the numbers of refugees aren’t reconciled. “The high numbers of displaced people are frightening investors, and the country is much more dependent on investment for development than development aid,” he said.

 

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