The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the fourth largest population in Africa, with nearly two-thirds of its people living on less than $2.15 a day. The DRC is among the least developed countries in the world. Following the two Congolese wars, nearly 62% of the Congolese, roughly 60 million people, live in poverty. Adding to its challenges, the DRC faces the fourth largest Internally Displaced People (IDP) crisis globally, with 6.3 million displaced people. These hardships stem from the ongoing conflict that has plagued the country since the 1990s.
Brief History of Conflict in the DRC
The conflict in the DRC has its roots in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, which led to nearly 2 million Hutu refugees seeking refuge in Congo. In fear of retribution, Hutu extremists formed militias, while Tutsi militias emerged to counter their actions. The Tutsi-led government of Rwanda, after defeating the genocidal Rwandan government, became involved in what was then called the Republic of Zaire, later renamed the DRC. Rwandan troops and Tutsi militias based in the Congo invaded Zaire, sparking the first Congolese War in 1996. The conflict resulted in the victory of Rwandan troops and the Zairean opposition, with Laurent Kabila, the opposition leader, assuming the presidency of the newly renamed Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tensions between Rwanda and the DRC escalated, leading to the second Congolese War in 1998. Kaila aimed to reduce Rwandan control over his government by removing Tutsis from his administration and weakening Rwandan military influence in the eastern DRC. Although the war officially concluded in 2002, the conflict persisted until 2004. Since 1996, the eastern DRC has witnessed more than 6 million deaths to casualties from wars, clashes between ethnic and militant groups and activities of local armed factions. In light of these conditions, there are a number of organizations working to make a difference in the DRC.
3 Organizations Making a Difference in the DRC
- Concern Worldwide: Established in 1968 by John and Kay O’Laughlin-Kenndey, Concern Worldwide is a non-governmental organization dedicated to combating extreme poverty in the communities it serves. It has been actively working in the DRC since 1994, employing 300 individuals to implement emergency livelihood, agricultural and health programs nationwide. In 2022, Concern Worldwide provided essential support to more than 150,000 displaced individuals through emergency cash vouchers and food assistance. It also improved the lives of more than 350,000 individuals in rural areas and displacement sites by providing water, hygiene and sanitation services. Concern Worldwide addressed gender inequality by reaching 3,866 women and 2,714 men through gender training and sensitization held in local communities, along with 1,215 children through school workshops in 2022.
- Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE): Founded in 1945 by Arthur Cuming Ringland and Wallace Campbell, CARE is a non-profit organization that aims to defeat poverty and achieve social justice. It operates in 111 countries and has been working in the DRC since 2002. CARE focuses on humanitarian response, women’s economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, food and nutrition security and climate resilience. In 2021, CARE reached more than 1 million individuals in the DRC, with the majority being women.
- International Rescue Committee (IRC): Founded in 1933 by Albert Einstein, the IRC is a non-governmental organization that works in more than 40 crisis-affected countries. It provides health care, education and community empowerment while addressing gender inequality. Since 1996, the IRC has assisted 2,764,357 people in the DRC. It focuses on regions like Tanganyika, Kasai Central and North and South Kivu, providing emergency support, peace-building projects, training for health care and government workers, assistance to sexual assault survivors, reproductive services and ensuring girls’ enrollment in schools. In 2022, the IRC reached more than 32.9 million people and supported 3,137 health care facilities worldwide.
Despite the ongoing conflicts, these organizations making a difference in the DRC are actively assisting a country grappling with the aftermath of war, political instability and economic decline. As millions of individuals struggle to meet their basic needs, are forcibly displaced and endure the hardships due to the ongoing conflict, these partnerships and the critical ongoing work by Concern Worldwide, CARE and the IRC serve to alleviate the impacts of war and poverty and improve the lives of the people in the DRC.
– Clara Swart