1.7M Excess Deaths in Congo
The report, "Mortality in Eastern DRC - Results from 5 Mortality Surveys" by Les Roberts, was presented this week to UN members by the Sec. Gen., reported in dozens of major newspapers worldwide.
As in similar high-mortality emergencies, most of the deaths resulted from common health conditions such as diarrhea, measles, malnutrition, malaria, anemia & meningitis which are preventable at low cost with simple interventions. But Dr. Roberts found that most of these common health problems were linked, ultimately, to armed violence, banditry, rape & forcible displacements of Congolese families, as a result of the back & forth movement of armies across the regions. In general, civilian mortality seems to result in roughly equal proportions from Hutu-led (Interhamwe) & from Tutsi-led (RCD) troops, each at war with one another. The report says: "In Eastern DRC, war means disease. Violence & infectious disease deaths are inseparably linked… Many of the Kalonge displaced & Moba residents reported that their family members died of malaria or diarrhea while hiding in the forest after their village was attacked. ...they had no food in the forest." The report finds evidence of measles, cholera, polio & meningitis epidemics which have previously escaped intl. attention.
IRC's findings suggest that the intl. community has over-looked the humanitarian impact of conflict on a large emergency-affected population. In contrast to large amounts of aid that was provided to Rwanda & to refugee camps of Rwandans & Burundians, hardly any aid has been provided to the Congolese civilians during the more recent conflict. Aid agencies estimate 20,000 recently displaced persons from Kisangani (MSF estimates 1,100 war wounded), & 60,000+ in the southern Katanga province. Overall, the UN estimates some 1.3M people are displaced in DRC. 10,000s of refugees are fleeing Congo now into Malawi (on top of refugee caseload in Tanzania).
This week UN Sec. Gen. Annan said he wants the UN to force foreign armies (Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe) out of DRC. UN peacekeeping troops remain on stand-by to enter Congo, with Nigeria & S. Africa agreeing this week to contribute troops. Uganda & Rwanda agreed last week on a ceasefire over northern city of Kisangani, after which Rwanda drove off Uganda forces.
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