A country two thirds the size of Europe, and rich in mineral and agricultural resources, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is also the site of the “deadliest conflict since World War II,” which has killed more than 5.4 million people. The country is recovering from this civil war, but its infrastructure has been nearly destroyed. As a result, poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is widespread and severe, and it requires urgent attention.
Effects of the War
Today, the effects of the conflict in the DRC are extremely apparent. Life expectancy is 49 years compared to the global average of 70 years, and 168 children born out of every 1,000 die before reaching the age of five. In 2011, more than a quarter of the population was sickened by malaria. More than 2.3 million citizens remain displaced from their homes within the country, and thousands more have fled to neighboring countries for refuge from the ongoing violence.
Though these statistics have improved slightly since the peak of the civil war in the mid-1990s, 71 percent of the DRC’s population continues to live below the poverty line. Experts say that the country’s scale is a primary factor causing many to die from “easily preventable conditions” such as malnutrition, malaria, and pneumonia. Humanitarian and aid organizations struggle to serve the DRC’s large population as “renewed rebel activities” in eastern provinces continue to displace large segments of the population.
The World Bank reopened in the DRC in 2001 after operations were suspended for almost ten years because of political instability and corruption in the country. The Bank has committed $3.1 billion to the DRC, aiming to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, decrease corruption in public and private sectors, and rehabilitate the country’s health and education systems.
The United Nations has also been instrumental in the DRC’s recovery. The Security Council established MONUSCO in 1999, supplying peacekeeping troops to the region. In addition to the UN’s peacekeeping efforts, USAID provides emergency assistance to the displaced and has established long-term programs to address food security, democracy, education, the environment, and global health in the DRC.
Since late 2010, USAID has given a comprehensive malaria prevention package in 70 health zones in the DRC, greatly reducing the incidence of malaria in the country. USAID also provides health services to pregnant women with HIV/AIDs, preventing them from passing the virus on to their children. The DRC happens to be one of the five countries in the world that accounts for half of all child deaths, but USAID recently provided health services to more than 12 million people who previously lacked access to healthcare.
The situation in the DRC remains one of the most urgent humanitarian crises in the world, but efforts to relieve the widespread poverty are proving successful. In order to maintain this trajectory, though, continued funding for USAID will be critical.
– Katie Bandera