The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the world’s most neglected displacement crisis according to the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) annual list, due to overwhelming needs and an acute lack of funding, as well as media and diplomatic inattention.

Children are looking for food and water in Kishanga camp, in DR Congo. In the early hours of the morning, under a leaden sky, 11,000 displaced people wake up, groggy from the cold night. Their daily struggle to find some dignity begins, in a camp that has stopped receiving emergency humanitarian aid for several years. Photo: Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC.

“DR Congo is one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century. A lethal combination of spiralling violence, record hunger levels and total neglect has ignited a mega-crisis that warrants a mega-response. But instead, millions of families on the brink of the abyss seem to be forgotten by the outside world and are left shut off from any support lifeline,” said Secretary General of NRC, Jan Egeland, who launched the report today from Goma, eastern DR Congo.

Multiple conflicts in eastern parts of the country have escalated, forcing 6,000 people to flee their homes every day last year, making it the crisis with the largest number of new displacements due to conflict in the world.

Last weekend nearly 4,500 homes were destroyed when a volcano erupted outside Goma, sparking some short-lived media interest. “The Congolese are struck by a crisis of volcanic dimensions every single day due to violence and conflict. Sadly, when there is no volcanic eruption, the thousands that flee their homes each day goes unnoticed,” Egeland said. “They do not make headlines, they seldom receive high-level donor visits and are never prioritized by international diplomacy,” he added.

The top ten most forgotten crises

Crises in Africa dominated this year’s neglected displacement crises list once again, with DR Congo followed by Cameroon, Burundi, Venezuela, Honduras, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Mali.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused millions of people who were already struggling to survive in neglected crises to fall even further behind. The little income they had is often gone, needs are skyrocketing and funding continues to dry up,” Egeland warned.

For the first time this century, the global humanitarian appeals to support aid operations were less than 50 per cent funded last year. In some of the neglected crises only a third of what was needed was received, even for lifesaving relief. This year, the aid appeal for DR Congo is only 12 per cent funded by mid-May.

“We cannot continue to allow millions of displaced Congolese people to suffer in the shadows. A collective, shared responsibility must be revived to put an end to the misery of millions once and for all,” Egeland said.

Facts and figures:

DR Congo:

  • 2 million displacements were registered in DR Congo in 2020, making it the country with the largest number of new displacements due to conflict in the world, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
  • In total, more than five million people are internally displaced in DR Congo, and an additional million people have fled the country.
  • DR Congo is home to the greatest number of food insecure people in the world – 27 million, including over 3 million children. One in three Congolese do not have enough food to feed themselves.

The neglected displacement crises list:

  • Although humanitarian assistance should be based on needs alone, some crises receive more attention and support than others.
  • NRC launches a list of neglected displacement crises annually, to focus on the plight of people whose suffering rarely makes international headlines, who seldom receive high-level visits by donor countries, and who never become the centre of attention for international diplomacy.
  • The neglected displacement crises list for 2020 analyses 40 displacement crises based on three criteria: lack of funding, lack of media attention, and lack of international political and diplomatic initiatives.
  • DR Congo is a textbook example of a neglected crisis and scores high on all three criteria. It ranked 2nd on the list for 2019 and 2018, topped the list for 2017 and ranked 2nd on the list for 2016.
  • Cameroon, which ranks 2nd on this year’s list, topped the list in 2018 and 2019. The country is affected by three crises and has witnessed a spike in displacements during the last years, but little international pressure has been placed on conflict parties to stop attacking civilians.