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THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN DRC: HUNGER AND STARVATION

This article was written by VIA volunteer Ibrahim Fatai.

The humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s most severe, yet remains largely underreported. Since the International Rescue Committee’s 2008 report estimated 5.4 million deaths, the situation has significantly worsened. Despite the gravity of the crisis, global awareness is limited, overshadowed by political agendas and inadequate media coverage.

While South Africa is known for its diamonds and gold and Nigeria for its oil, the DRC is rich in cobalt and coltan, essential minerals in high demand for the tech and renewable energy sectors. The DRC holds over 60% of the world’s cobalt reserves and around 50% of global coltan reserves. Cobalt is crucial for rechargeable batteries in electric vehicles, electronics, and aerospace applications. Coltan is used in electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and gaming consoles, where it is critical for manufacturing capacitors and high-performance components.

However, the extraction of these minerals comes at a high human cost. UNICEF estimates that around 40,000 children are involved in mining activities, including cobalt and coltan extraction. Many of these children have dropped out of school or never attended, forced into dangerous labor. The toll on the Congolese population is staggering, with nearly a quarter facing severe hunger and malnutrition. Health services are inadequate, and education systems are in disarray, leaving many children without access to schooling. The lack of accountability for those funding and perpetuating the conflict allows the cycle of violence to continue.

The Rwandan government denies involvement with militant groups despite evidence, including aerial footage and photographs, showing RDF troops alongside M23 rebels. Historically, Western governments, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, provided financial support to Rwanda. This support persisted until 2012, when concerns over human rights abuses led to a temporary suspension of military aid.

In the provinces of North Kivu, Ituri, and Mai-Ndombe, conflict driven by armed groups such as M23 and the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) has displaced over 6.3 million people. These groups, often funded through illegal mining taxes, commit atrocities, including mass killings and sexual violence, further exacerbating the humanitarian disaster.

The DRC’s vast mineral wealth fuels global technology markets but also intensifies ongoing conflict. Multinational companies, prioritizing profit, exploit these resources, perpetuating violence and instability. This exploitation, facilitated by international corporations and foreign governments, has exacerbated the crisis, making economic interests a significant driving force behind the conflict.

Amid this bleak landscape, organizations like Voluntaryism In Action and Focus Congo offer a glimmer of hope. Initiatives such as community gardens in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps aim to improve food security and combat malnutrition. Focus Congo also provides healthcare, education, and social services, significantly improving the lives of displaced individuals.

While the conflict’s root causes are complex, individual contributions can make a tangible difference. Supporting organizations working directly in the DRC helps provide immediate relief and empowers local communities. Advocacy for greater transparency and accountability from governments and corporations is essential to achieving systemic change.

The crisis in the DRC demands urgent global attention and action. It is imperative for citizens to hold their governments accountable for complicity in foreign conflicts. Supporting grassroots organizations and demanding corporate responsibility can help alleviate suffering and foster a more just and peaceful future for the Congolese people. By donating, advocating for policy changes, and educating others about the crisis, we can contribute to a brighter future for the DRC and its people.

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