UN warns of 'catastrophic' aid shortfall for DR Congo

4th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

The United Nations warned on Friday that a "catastrophic" shortfall in aid for the Democratic Republic of Congo could cut off vital health and food assistance for hundreds of thousands of people.

Only two to six percent of the funds earmarked for aid in those areas has come through, though international donors have provided 249 million of the 828 million dollars the UN has appealed for this year, the UN humanitarian coordinator's office (OCHA) said.

"If it continues at this rhythm we might barely cover 60 percent of the finance necessary for humanitarian programmes, which means it's really catastrophic," OCHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told journalists.

"If the money doesn't come through the consequences will be enormous, especially in key areas," she added.

The current funding gaps would deprive 200,000 children suffering from severe malnutrition of aid, stop vaccinations for 180,000 infants and cut education for 90,000 more, according to OCHA.

Some 300,000 to 400,000 people would not receive planned aid for water and sanitation, refugees and displaced people would miss out on aid while an estimated 10,000 victims of sexual assaults would not be assisted, it added.

"Just on health and nutrition, the consequences would be catastrophic and many children could die if these programmes are not funded, it's vital, it's a matter of survival," Byrs said.

In Kinshasa, Fidele Sarassoro, the UN chief's special representative for DR Congo, said the shortfall was mainly due to the "world financial crisis and several humanitarian crises, such as Haiti".

This would have "disastrous consequences for the humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable" populations, he added.

The conflict-ridden east of the country is highly dependent on international aid.

Sarassoro also noted an increasing number of attacks against humanitarian aid workers in the country's conflict zones, with at least 22 such incidents reported in the eastern Sud-Kivu province between January and March, according to the UN.

These include kidnappings, assault, armed robberies, theft and confiscations.

Although ranked among the world's poorest countries, the DRC, with a population of 68 million, is blessed with a wealth of prized natural resources and mines, including copper, cobalt, gold, coltan, tin and zinc.

© 2010 AFP

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