New Evidence Reveals Staggering Loss of Life in Eastern Congo: 1.7 Million Dead in 22-Month War
A comprehensive mortality study, released today by the International Rescue Committee, found that since August 1998 there have been at least 1.7 million deaths in war-affected areas over and above the 600,000 that would normally be expected. The overwhelming majority of these additional deaths are attributable to preventable diseases and malnutrition – a tragic consequence of a health care system destroyed by war.
“On average, some 2,600 people are dying every day in this war and our research found that the first months of the year 2000 were even worse than 1999,” said the study’s author, epidemiologist Les Roberts.
Among the study’s findings:
- 34 percent of the deaths have been children under the age of five (over 590,000).
- The highest death rates are among populations displaced by the fighting.
- Civilians are being indiscriminately targeted by all sides in the conflict.
- 47 percent of all violent war-related deaths are women and children.
- There is a direct link between deaths by disease and deaths by violence; when violence increased, so did disease.
“The loss of life in Congo has been staggering,” said Reynold Levy, International Rescue Committee President. “It’s as if the entire population of Houston was wiped off the face of the earth in a matter of months. With this new evidence in hand, policy makers must take action. Securing peace and financing humanitarian aid at much higher levels will be necessary to stem the tide of death revealed in this report.”
The International Rescue Committee is calling on world governments and multinational organizations to support a robust U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to increase humanitarian assistance in proportion to the country’s horrific level of death and suffering.
The IRC is also urging all warring parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire, to re-commit themselves and their supporters to establishing peace as soon as possible and to permit the delivery of humanitarian aid without conditions.
The complete report, the supporting graphs, a map of the region, and a summary is available for download here.