UN aid chief: Humanitarian needs have doubled in Congo

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Humanitarian needs in Congo have doubled over the last year as a result of worsening conflict, with 13 million people needing aid and over 2 million children suffering from “severe acute malnutrition,” the U.N. humanitarian chief said Monday.

Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council that Congo is experiencing “mushrooming epidemics including the worst outbreak of cholera in 15 years.”

There is also “an epidemic of sexual violence, most of it unreported and unaddressed, and much of it against children,” he said.

Lowcock, who just returned from Congo, warned that unless the violence ends and there is a successful political transition following a long-delayed presidential election on Dec. 23, “these numbers will all increase.”

Eastern Congo is home to armed groups and militias, many of whom have been vying for two decades for control of the region’s vast mineral resources.

Lowcock said almost 746,000 Congolese have fled the violence to neighboring countries, but the country is hosting more than 540,000 refugees from its neighbors.

He said “the single largest impediment to the humanitarian response” in Congo is underfunding.

Only half of the $812.5 million humanitarian appeal for 2017 was funded, but Lowcock said the U.N. and its humanitarian partners were still able to reach more than 4.2 million people.

This year, the U.N. has appealed for $1.7 billion to help 10.5 million people, he said.

Lowcock said the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, European Union and United Nations will co-host the first-ever High-Level Humanitarian Conference on Congo in Geneva on April 13.

He urged council members to encourage high-level participation and pledges at the conference, whose goal “is to secure immediate and substantial financial contributions and to launch a multi-year campaign” to support the country.

“We also need solutions to address the root causes of the worsening crisis, including making progress on the political front and fair elections,” Lowcock said.

“We need Congo’s neighbors to behave responsibly,” he said. “And while the violence persists, all parties must take steps to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

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