5 November 2012
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Humanitarian Aid Efforts in Democratic Republic of the Congo


Humanitarian aid operations in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, although effective, were insufficient,John Ging, Director of Operations, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters at a press conference at Headquarters today.


Mr. Ging said that his recent visit to the beleaguered country with representatives from the two largest donors, Mark Bowman, Director General of Department for International Aid, United Kingdom, and Catherine Wiesner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, United States, had been a useful opportunity for OCHA, as well as the donors, to not only understand the escalating situation in there, but to investigate how better to respond.  The team had spent the bulk of their time in both North and South Kivu.


Because of the widespread conflict caused by the M23, as well as 2,000 other armed groups across the region, he said that the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo had been hit this year by massive humanitarian needs.  Murders and rapes were rampant.  Villages were being looted and destroyed.  The fact that there were 2.4 million internally displaced persons, including 1.6 million in the Kivus, was a bleak illustration of the monumental humanitarian needs in the region.  As many as 1 million children under the age of five were suffering from malnutrition.  This emergency added to the existing humanitarian crisis in the country.


He spoke of visiting a trade fair in North Kivu where, instead of the international community trucking in aid, the local commercial community offered food and non-food options which allowed people to choose in accordance with their needs.  That, he believed, was an innovative way of distributing aid and meeting needs, because it provided engagement for the local community and enabled a sense of dignity for the recipients. 


It was crucial to step up the humanitarian response, Mr. Ging added.  In the first half of 2012, 10.6 million people had benefited from health services, 3.1 million people had been provided drinking water, and over 1 million people had benefited from non-food items such as household items.  A very large humanitarian operation was underway, but the challenges were ever-growing.


However, he stressed, the international community must not fall into the notion that the situation was beyond repair.  It was possible to address the scale and scope of the crisis.  “The key is funding,” he stated.  


The suffering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had not received global attention in recent years, he pointed out.  That, in turn, had caused funding to drop even as aid needs grew.  The visit had allowed OCHA and its donors to see for themselves that the aid operation was effective, but not sufficient.  More funding was needed urgently, he emphasized.


Having visited the country several times, he said in conclusion, he deeply admired and respected the Congolese people for their dignity and resilience.  There were people who had been displaced multiple times, yet they did not lose hope.  He was also impressed by the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Education for Peace project.


Responding to questions about the amount of resources needed, Mr. Ging stated that the United Nations appeal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo was $791 million, of which only $429 million had been funded.  There was a huge gap between the total amount and what was available to enable food assistance, support for healthcare, and the provision of essential household items.  He also said that aid was being provided in areas under M23 control, even though the terrain and security situation were challenging.


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For information media • not an official record