7.5 million need humanitarian aid in DRC

Kinshasa - Decades of successive crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo have left 7.5 million people, nine percent of the population in need of humanitarian aid including food, the United Nations said on Monday.

Parts of eastern DRC have been wracked by warfare, ethnic strife and armed conflicts over land and control of mineral resources for more than 20 years.

"A complex and protracted crisis of massive proportions has created humanitarian needs for 7.5 million people, or 9 percent of the population," said a new report from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Decades of successive shocks have intensified humanitarian needs, leaving a higher proportion of the population vulnerable to the multiple shocks caused by conflicts, epidemics, malnutrition and natural disasters."

The report, which highlights global humanitarian needs, says that for OCHA and its partners to help six million people in DRC this year it needs $690m.

At least five million people have limited or uncertain access to adequate food, and almost half the nation's children under five are chronically malnourished.

Measles and cholera outbreaks particularly affect children, who are already weakened by high rates of malaria and the lack of a proper diet.

Only 22% of the population has access to safe drinking water.

In addition to the violence in the east, tensions have been rising ahead of elections due in November over fears that President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, will seek changes to the constitution to stay in power.

The president has shown no sign of preparing to leave office and is now calling for a "national dialogue" to allow for a peaceful vote.

"The rise in human rights violations in the run-up to the forthcoming elections raises concern that the security situation could deteriorate if the political crisis deepens, worsening the already dire humanitarian needs," the report said.

Conflicts in neighbouring nations like the Central African Republic and Burundi are also a source of instability, pushing some 250 000 refugees and asylum seekers into DRC.

"In 2016, DRC is likely to continue receiving refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries, while also facing internal pressures," the report said.

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