DR Congo: Have You Heard About What’s Happening in Kasaï?
29 January 2018
Michael (far left) and François (on phone) interview displaced people as part of a needs assessment in the Kasaï region.
A deadly crisis is raging in DR Congo’s Kasaï region, yet few people have even heard about it. What’s going on? Since August 2016, more than 1.4 million people have been displaced due to conflict between militia and government forces. Over 80 mass graves have been discovered. Families caught in the crossfire are suffering, with severe humanitarian needs.
During 2017, Medair sent two assessment teams to Kasaï to better understand the needs and how we should respond to them. To give you a sense of the size of this huge country, the flight to Kasaï from our base in Nord Kivu is more than 1,000 kilometres, a distance comparable to a flight from Geneva to Madrid. So if we’re in Switzerland, it’s like there’s a war going on in Spain.
In Kasaï, the Medair teams travelled to affected communities to assess the impact of the crisis.
“The poverty in this region is indescribable,” said Michael, Medair relief worker.
In one village, they found the health facility had been burned down and all its contents had been looted or lost in the fire. “The province has no means to respond, so the people here set up a simple mud-brick hut as a substitute, with a small table for the doctor and only a few medications available,” said Michael. “There is a room for births but without a bed or even a mattress on the floor. Mothers need to return home soon after giving birth, because there is simply no place for monitoring or care.”
In November 2017, Medair found that malnutrition rates were twice as high as the emergency threshold, among 522 children under five assessed.
Despite vast humanitarian needs, the response by NGOs like Medair has been hamstrung by a lack of funds, which is linked to a lack of media coverage. The challenge of presenting the Kasaï crisis in a way that captures the conscience of Western media remains unmet.
I don’t believe it’s for a lack of compassion. Charitable giving has risen year-on-year for 37 out of the last 40 years. In the “information age,” individuals are becoming increasingly selective about their giving, seeking out the most severe needs, and supporting the most efficient and credible organisations. Yet for the majority of individuals, selections are made from information presented in a clear, moving way, whether by mainstream media, on the internet, or through friends.
With this in mind, it’s my hope that people will soon come to understand that:
- The crisis in Kasaï is new – it is not part of the chronic crisis that continues in eastern DR Congo.
- The crisis in Kasaï is severe – over 1.4 million people displaced: by comparison, the highly-visible Rohingya crisis has displaced an estimated 655,000 people so far.
- The scope and effectiveness of the humanitarian response rests in the hands of donors who choose to support Medair and other organisations working to relieve the suffering of those affected.
Medair has determined that our support is best targeted towards health facilities in the Kasaï region, with a particular focus on nutrition services. Although funding remains a critical challenge, we have established a base in the region and are prepared to begin providing aid as soon as we are able.
We invite you to stand with us in bringing life-saving aid to the most vulnerable in this most neglected region. Please consider a donation today.
Medair’s work in DR Congo is made possible with support from Agence de l’eau Rhône Méditerranée Corse (FR), EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, EO Metterdaad (NL), Medicor Foundation (LI), Mercy Corps (US), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UN Development Programme, US Agency for International Development, GvC-Winterthur (CH), United Nations Children’s Fund, and generous private donors.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.