March 19, 2018 / 4:46 PM / 7 months ago

U.N. warns of growing humanitarian catastrophe in DR Congo

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Humanitarian needs caused by conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo have doubled over the last year and a cash shortage is the “largest single impediment” for a proper response, the humanitarian chief at the United Nations said on Monday.

“There is also an epidemic of sexual violence, most of it unreported and unaddressed, and much of it against children,” said Mark Lowcock in a statement to the U.N. Security Council.

A long-delayed election to replace President Joseph Kabila is at the root of violence that has ravaged the Central African country. Earlier on Monday, the UN condemned an “unlawful and unjustified” crackdown by Congolese security forces on anti-government protests that killed at least 47 people in the year to January 2018.

About 2.2 million people became internally displaced in the DRC last year alone, nearly doubling the total number of internally displaced people to 4.5 million.

With some 13 million people needing humanitarian assistance, more than 4.6 million acutely malnourished children and the worst outbreak of cholera in 15 years, Lowcock said about $1.7 billion is needed this year for humanitarian programs in the DRC, nearly four times what was secured in 2017.

Lowcock asked for “immediate and substantial financial contributions” ahead of the first high-level humanitarian conference on the DRC to be held in Geneva on April 13.

“Underfunding is the largest single impediment to the humanitarian response in the DRC,” Lowcock said, adding that without a halt to the violence and a successful political transition the crisis will continue to escalate.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by James Dalgleish

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