The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, DR Congo) is a country in central Sub-Saharan Africa. The country gained its independence from Belgium in 1960; its national capital is Kinshasa. The DRC borders the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, and the Republic of Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo covers an area of 2,344,858 square kilometers. In 2024, the country has an estimated population of about 113.6 million people, making it the third most populous country in Africa after Nigeria and Ethiopia. The DR Congo is one of the most resource-rich countries in the world and at the same time one of the least developed countries.
The humanitarian situation
The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are suffering from one of the most complex and protracted humanitarian crises, with 25.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2024. At the same time, the DRC faces one of the world's most neglected displacement crises, with nearly 8 million women, children, and men in the country forced to flee their homes. For decades, the DR Congo has endured multiple, overlapping crises, mainly driven by conflict and forced displacement, both of which are having devastating consequences. More than a hundred years later, the horrific colonization of the country by the Belgian King Leopold II is still impacting the life in the DRC. Since the end of the Second Congo War in 2003, the central African country has experienced now two decades of lingering armed violence.
As decades of conflict and strife continue to plague the Democratic Republic of Congo, the humanitarian crisis in the region deepens. Millions, who have been internally displaced due to ongoing militia attacks and military operations, highlight the particularly tragic outcomes for women and children. Conflict has a profound impact of the lives of the Congolese people.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo suffers one of the largest internal displacement crises in Africa – after Sudan – due to the ongoing violence. More than 7.9 million people in the country have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are 6.9 million internally displaced persons, mainly in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, and more than 1 million refugees, that have sought safety in neighboring countries.
As of November 2023, most internally displaced persons (IDPs), about 5.5 million (80 percent), lived in the eastern provinces of North Kivu (2.41 million IDPs), Ituri (1.65 million), and South Kivu (1.49 million). In addition to the millions of internally displaced persons, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is also hosting some 500,000 refugees from other countries, mainly from the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan.
The humanitarian situation in DR Congo continues to deteriorate, particularly in the east of the country, due to the volatile security situation. Since March 2022, 3.6 million people have been forced from their homes in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces, an illustration of the country’s ongoing fragility. As the conflict does not let up, people continue to be forced from their homes and the only shelter they can find is in makeshift camps and host communities. More than two-thirds of IDPs in the country - nearly 4.8 million people - live in host families.
The conflict in eastern DRC has caused an interlinked crisis, affecting food insecurity, malnutrition, health, education, as well as access to clean water and shelter.
In 2023, the humanitarian situation in the eastern provinces of the DR Congo reached devastating levels, as cyclical violence perpetrated by armed groups and subsequent displacement impacted millions of vulnerable civilians. Eastern DRC is home to multiple armed groups, including the rebel Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) force, the CODECO armed group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels, and Zaire militants.
On June 16, 2023, the world’s top relief officials announced a system-wide scale-up that will allow humanitarian organizations to increase their operations in eastern DRC following months of relentless violence, displacement and rising humanitarian needs.
The scale-up focuses on the scarcity of food, protection from gender-based violence (GBV), and the spread of treatable diseases in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. Since the decision, United Nations agencies have deployed teams to the eastern part of the country and secured additional funding, to significantly increase their response.
In recent months, humanitarian organizations have strengthened their operations, reaching more than 900,000 people with emergency assistance. However, aid agencies need urgent financial support to continue and increase their response.
Ongoing conflict in the country fuels hunger. Between January and June 2024, some 23.4 million people in DRC are likely to face high levels of acute food insecurity (crisis levels or above) and in dire need of humanitarian assistance. More than 1.1 million children are acutely malnourished. 250,000 children suffer from severe acute malnurition (SAM) and need urgent medical assistance.
The UN estimates that 25.4 million people will require humanitarian assistance in 2024, a slight decrease compared to 2023. Among them are an estimated 14.9 million children. In the three eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, nearly 8 million women, men, and children are in need of humanitarian aid.
The humanitarian response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is significantly underfunded.
The 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for the Democratic Republic of the Congo called for $2.3 billion to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people. As of February 2024, the 2023 HRP was only 40 percent funded. The 2023 Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP) for the Democratic Republic of Congo requires $549 million. As of February 2024, the 2023 RRP was only 26 percent covered by funding.
Since December 2023, heavy rainfall has caused the Congo River to surge to its highest levels since 1961. This has triggered catastrophic flooding, which has impacted 18 out of the country’s 26 provinces and affected more than 2 million people, including in the capital Kinshasa. Over 300 deaths have been reported, more than 500,000 people have been displaced due to the floods.
The floods are exacerbating already high humanitarian needs, as the infrastructure has been severely damaged and basic services are severely impaired. Experts fear a surge in cholera cases and potential spread along the Congo River. Nearly 100,000 homes, 267 health facilities, and 1,325 schools have been destroyed.
The security situation
For two decades, conflict has been raging in parts of the country. Human rights violations are widespread, in particular cases of sexual and gender-based violence, with sexual violence being used as a weapon of war. Sporadic waves of fighting across many parts of the country, in particular eastern regions, face the DRC with a complex and challenging security situation.
Presidential, legislative, and provincial elections were held in December 2018 and early 2019 across most of the country. In 2019 then, the country experienced the first transfer of power to an opposition candidate without significant violence or a coup since the DRC's independence. Opposition candidate Félix Tshisekedi was announced the election winner on 10 January 2019 and inaugurated two weeks later. The next presidential, legislative, and provincial elections were held in December 2023.
After a disputed election in December, President Tshisekedi was sworn in on January 20, 2024, for his second five-year term. The Congolese president has promised to unite the Central African country and protect lives in the conflict-torn eastern provinces.
While the security situation improved in some areas in 2021, armed conflict and natural disasters continue to cause significant displacement in the east of the country, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri where a state of siege was declared in April 2022 due to escalating attacks. North Kivu, Ituri, and South Kivu suffered between 2021 and 2023 from an escalation of targeted attacks by armed groups against civilians, many of whom have already been displaced due to conflict and violence.
Rebel groups have fought the government and each other in eastern Congo for decades, battling for political dominance and control of the region’s rich mines. Much of the instability in the region is driven by illicit mining, regional rivalries, and a proxy war between DRC’s eastern neighbors Uganda and Rwanda. Despite efforts to achieve peace in eastern Congo, mistrust between leaders of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, remains a major obstacle.
The worsening conflicts in eastern Congo have prompted countries in the region to broker two peace initiatives: the so-called Luanda Process and the Nairobi Process.
In North Kivu province alone, at least 1.2 million people have been displaced since fighting between the Congolese army and the armed group Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) escalated in March 2022. The fighting is concentrated in the Rutshuru Territory and Masisi territory, and most of the displaced have fled to the Nyiragongo Territory. Thousands of people have sought refuge in Uganda and Rwanda.
Since October 2023, violent clashes between members of the rebel force Mouvement du 23 mars (M23), the Congolese armed forces and coalitions of armed groups in North Kivu have again intensified, forcing more than 450,000 people to flee their homes.
While the DR Congo continues to experience violence perpetrated by more than 130 armed groups active in the eastern regions, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has operated in the regions since 1999 and is the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world. The mission has been authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.
However, UN peacekeepers are due to exit from the eastern provinces, as part of the Mission’s disengagement plan from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. MONUSCO will complete its withdrawal from the country by the end of 2024.
Your donation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo emergency can help United Nations agencies, international humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their local partners to rapidly provide water, food, medicine, shelter and other aid to the people who need it most.
- UN Crisis Relief: Democratic Republic of the Congo Emergency
- UN Crisis Relief: DRC Floods Response
- UNHCR: DR Congo emergency
- WFP: Democratic Republic of the Congo Emergency
Currently, there are only a few active appeals for the DR Congo Crisis. You may also consider making an unearmarked donation or a broader earmarked donation.
- Oxfam International: Donate to the Global Emergency Fund
- International Rescue Committee: Donate
- Save the children: Donate
To find other organizations to which you can donate, visit: Humanitarian Crisis Relief, Refugees and IDPs, Children in Need, Hunger and Food Insecurity, Medical Humanitarian Aid, Vulnerable Groups, Faith-Based Humanitarian Organizations, and Human Rights Organizations.
- Concern Worldwide: The DRC crisis, explained
- UN OCHA: Democratic Republic of the Congo
- ACAPS: DRC Complex crisis
- European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO): Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Norwegian Refugee Council: NRC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Oxfam International: Crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo
- International Rescue Committee: Democratic Republic of Congo
- International Crisis Group: Democratic Republic of Congo
- United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO)
- Human Rights Watch: World Report 2024: Democratic Republic of Congo
- Amnesty International: World Report 2022/2023: Human rights in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Last updated: 10/02/2024