Suffering in silence: The 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises

Peru, Central African Republic, Lake Chad Basin, Vietnam, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Burundi, Eritrea, and Democratic People's Republic of Korea: the 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2017

Every day, people across the Democratic Republic of Congo are dying because of conflict and violence – did you know?

Maybe not – because the DRC crisis is one of the 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2017 identified in a new CARE report.

Here, David Bisimwa, CARE’s Emergency Coordinator in the DRC, describes what it means for the people of his country to be experiencing a humanitarian crisis that the rest of the world is ignoring...

What’s the first thing that comes in to your mind when you hear the word ‘Congo’?

If I had to guess, I’d say it’s conflict, violence, and poverty.

I’m Congolese. I’ve lived here all my life and I’m sorry to say that you’re not very far from the truth.

There’s a lot of suffering here, but you probably haven’t heard a great deal about it in the news lately.

So it’s no surprise to me that the DRC is again featured in CARE International’s Suffering in silence report.

Let me fill you in. We Congolese have witnessed so much violence in so many places, that few of us can remember a life without it.

For many Congolese, violence is now the norm.

Thousands of people have been slaughtered, killed. Close family members, your brother or your aunt, and afterwards it looks like nothing has happened. Life goes on.

It’s been happening for so long now that sometimes you forget this violence is increasing in Congo. In some places 10 to 16 people are killed in the morning, and in the afternoon, you wouldn’t know it’s happened.

In Kasai recently, where horrific violence displaced almost a million and a half people, I came across a man with a knife. He was just sitting there picking at himself. He was covered in blood.

The violence in the Kasai spared no-one and it’s left enormous psychological scars.

Rape and sexual abuse were common and the local health system was overwhelmed.

So much humanitarian support tends to the immediate priorities of food, shelter and clean water but psychosocial support needs to be intrinsic to every emergency response. In Kasai, CARE is providing psychosocial support to rape survivors but if we don’t integrate it in to all our emergency work, we face a huge risk for future generations.

There are pockets of violence springing up all over Congo right now. In North Kivu, it’s displaced over a million people. It’s a similar story in South Kivu, where hundreds of thousands of people are constantly moving from one place to another to escape the violence.

One of the repercussions of this is that many of these people no longer have enough food to eat.

It’s an irony. The Kivus are very green and have very good growing conditions but conflict is preventing people from planting their crops.

Instead, they’re moving to larger towns where there is some semblance of security. This in turn puts big pressure on these towns to provide additional services.

If organisations like CARE were not intervening in the Kivus and the Kasai, people would have suffered even more. Many would simply have disappeared.

At the heart of this crisis is governance, at village, provincial and national levels. President Joseph Kabila completed his mandate in 2016, but elections will not be held until December 2018. Political uncertainty has led to more violence, and there are very real fears it will spill over into the Great Lakes Region.

I’ve been working in humanitarian response in Congo for almost 20 years. Someone recently asked me what the worst part of my job was. There’s only one answer: lack of resources.

Every day, people across Congo are dying because of conflict and violence, and right now there’s not enough resources to help them all.

This year, we’re expecting around 13 million Congolese will need humanitarian assistance, that’s one out of every six Congolese.

It does not take a lot to help people in dire need of assistance – for example, buying PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) kits to assist in the care of rape survivors will only cost a few hundred dollars.

But without the resources, we can’t do much.

It means we can only reach a small number of the 7 million Congolese who don’t have enough food to eat, and it means we may have to make the unenviable decision of cutting back some of our programmes where people already need our help in order to assist in areas of emerging need.

CARE International’s Suffering in silence report

CARE’s report argues that when crises are under-reported, they are often consequently under-funded. Public awareness and funding for humanitarian causes are closely intertwined. Six of the 10 most under-reported crises in 2017 also appear in the UN’s list of most under-funded emergencies in 2017. Suffering in silence is a call for the global community to help and to advocate for people in crises who are otherwise forgotten.

CARE International in the DRC

CARE has been present in the DRC since 1994, initially responding to a refugee crisis following the Rwandan genocide. Our DRC programmes focus on the empowerment of women and young people, support for the resilience of vulnerable communities, and community involvement for good governance.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.