Eastern DR of Congo surpasses Darfur as biggest, most neglected emergency – UN relief official

Jan Egeland

16 March 2005 – The situation in the strife-torn eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has surpassed the upheavals in Sudan's Darfur region as "the biggest, most neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today," according to the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Some 3 million Congolese were in acute need of assistance in a complex emergency where many parties were involved, "including, at one point, about 20 different armed actors," Jan Egeland, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told a press briefing as a two-day meeting of UN regional humanitarian relief officials began today in Geneva.

About 1 million people had died in the region in the past few years and there were many preventable deaths still – some 1,000 per day – despite the efforts of an active humanitarian community, he said, including 13 offices representing the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which he heads.

In addition, sexual abuse in recent years had become probably worse there than anywhere else in the world, Mr. Egeland said.

Meanwhile, donors were "sitting on the fence" and withholding contributions for the situation in Darfur, however, when "we need money and we need it now," he said.

No funds had come in for operations in the Central African Republic, Chechnya, Côte d'Ivoire, the Republic of Congo and a regional operation in West Africa, while only 11 per cent of funds needed for the Great Lakes region had been received, he said.

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