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On 16 June, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations, Martin Griffiths, endorsed the activation of an immediate system-wide scale-up by the United Nations of humanitarian operations in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (“Humanitarian System-Wide Scale-Up Activation”). This decision is valid until 8 September.
The United Nations Humanitarian System-Wide Scale-Up
The activation of this system triggered the implementation of a series of internal measures aimed at improving the humanitarian response to the drastic increase in needs in the region.
It also aims to ensure that humanitarian organisations that are members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) - the highest humanitarian coordination body in the United Nations system - and their partners can rapidly mobilise the operational capacities and resources needed to respond to critical humanitarian needs on the ground.
These measures are exceptional and can only be applied for a limited period of up to six months, which can be extended by a further three months.
The humanitarian situation in the DRC
The DRC is facing a humanitarian crisis that is systematically cited as one of the most forgotten and underfunded. By the end of June 2023, only 28% of the $2.25 billion required this year for the humanitarian response had been mobilised. The situation has hardly been any better over the last five years, when this proportion has averaged no more than 50%, leaving millions of people in need of emergency aid without assistance.
The east of the country is particularly hard hit by violence and natural disasters. Since the beginning of the year, a million more people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict and atrocities, bringing the number of internally displaced people to 6.3 million, the highest figure in Africa. In early May 2023, more than 500 people, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), died in landslides in Kalehe (South Kivu) and more than 4,000 are still missing following this disaster. Most of them are living in makeshift camps around Goma, where they have no access to healthcare and lack shelter, food, drinking water and toilets. In addition, women and girls are often the victims of sexual violence, and some have even been forced to to sexual slavery.
Aid from Belgium
The activation of the system for intensifying humanitarian operations in the east of the DRC has enabled the release of 13 million dollars from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Belgium is one of the largest donors to this fund, with an annual contribution of 17 million euros.
Belgium has also just contributed 8.5 million euros to the Humanitarian Fund for the DRC, becoming its second largest contributor. This will make it possible to allocate 30 million dollars to the east of the DRC as the UN steps up its humanitarian operations there.
Belgium is also preparing funding for various humanitarian projects and programmes totalling €8.5 million for 2023.
Finally, by maintaining and exceeding its commitment made during the agreement concluded in 2016 between the largest donors and humanitarian agencies (known as the "Grand Bargain") to respond to humanitarian needs by allocating 60% of its funding in a flexible manner, Belgium is enabling its humanitarian partners to react quickly to sudden crises and to allocate funds to less visible crises such as the one in the DRC.
All these measures confirm that the DRC is a priority for Belgium's humanitarian aid policy. It is also in this sense that Belgium continues to pay particular attention to strengthening the humanitarian system and welcomes the United Nations' decision to activate the Humanitarian System-Wide Scale-Up in order to better direct and coordinate the response to the humanitarian crisis in the east of the DRC.
Minister for Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez: “The population of eastern Congo is caught in a spiral of violence. Rape and sexual violence are massively used as weapons of war against women and children. More than 6 million people are on the run today, as many as the entire population of Flanders. The humanitarian needs are enormous, while international aid has been lacking for years. This is why I am very happy that the UN is now making an exceptional effort to provide additional support to humanitarian organizations in eastern Congo, including on the basis of Belgian aid to the emergency fund of the UN. We can't abandon the people there. And this is also our message to the international community: don't forget the eastern Congo."
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