Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Republic of the Congo’

Africa’s Group of 33

Since 1971 when the least developed countries (LDCs) category was created by the UN, sub-Saharan African countries have dominated the list. Four decades later, with 33 members (only 14 of the region’s 47 countries are not LDCs), sub-Saharan Africa still maintains the biggest regional presence in the group. All parts of the sub-continent are represented. In recent years, two countries from the continent, Botswana and Cape Verde, have graduated out of the category. Analysts say others (including Angola and Equatorial Guinea) have the potential to join them. However, the newly created state of South Sudan is widely expected join the LDCs group.

Africa’s LDCs are a highly diverse group, but most have in common an average growth of around 5 per cent in recent years. Of these countries, oil exporters (Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan) and mineral producers (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique and Zambia) benefited most from the surge in demand for commodities, mainly from the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil. Such a trend has led to an increased dependence of their economies on primary commodities, according to the latest Least Development Countries Report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

One feature of African LDCs is their high rates of return on foreign direct investments, at around 13 per cent. UNCTAD says that investing in LDCs is a smart move. “Rates of return on foreign direct investment … are much higher than on investment in developed, or even other developing, countries.”

* Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia.

Africa Renewal www.un.org/africarenewal
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UN-backed Partners Help DR Congo Introduce Pneumonia Vaccine

4 April 2011 –The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today added the vaccine against pneumonia to its national immunisation programme in a United Nations-backed initiative to drastically improve the chances of survival for children under the age of five.

The expanded programme is supported by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), which brings together governments, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other key players in global health.

It will initially be rolled out in two of DRC’s 11 provinces as the country steps up the fight against pneumonia, one of the biggest killers of children worldwide, and is responsible for a quarter of all deaths of children under the age of five in the African nation.

DRC’s First Lady, Olive Lembe Kabila, and Health Minister Victor Makwenge Kaput joined parents and health workers in Kinshasa to witness the first child being inoculated as part of the official introduction of pneumococcal vaccine into the national routine immunization programme.

On the same day in Paris, GAVI founding partner Bill Gates launched a European-wide awareness campaign to highlight the extraordinary life-saving opportunity that vaccines represent for donor countries.

Globally, pneumococcal disease, the most common and serious form of respiratory infections, kills over a million people every year – including more than half a million children before their fifth birthday.

It is the leading cause of pneumonia, which is the major cause of death among children under the age of five, contributing to 18 per cent of the mortality of children in that age group.

“Today’s launch is an enormous moment for my country, where too many children die of this terrible disease,” said Mr. Kaput. “Pneumonia causes suffering and death. Therefore we celebrate a wonderful day today.”

Léodégal Bazira, the acting WHO Representative in DRC, said: “The introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine and the systematic immunization of the children could save the life of one in five children dying from respiratory infectious diseases.”

A 2004 study by UNICEF showed that that pneumonia killed at least 132,000 children under the age of five in DRC, making it the second biggest cause of death – after malaria – of children under the age in the country.

“With electricity, roads, and refrigerators in short supply, delivering vaccines to remote health centres in DRC is an enormous challenge,” said Pierrette Vu Thi, the UNICEF Representative in DRC. “Together with its partners UNICEF is committed to ensure that all children in this country have the same access to this life-saving vaccine.”

In the past five months, Nicaragua, Guyana, Yemen, Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Mali also introduced pneumococcal vaccines thanks to support from GAVI.

UN News Center

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In Water-rich DR Congo, 50 Million People Lack Clean Water to Drink – UN

22 March 2011 –An estimated 51 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – or three quarters of the population – have no access to safe drinking water, even though the country holds over half of Africa’s water reserves, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a new study released today.

The country’s troubled legacy of conflict, environmental degradation, rapid urbanization and under-investment in water infrastructure has seriously affected the availability of drinking water, UNEP said in the study, unveiled to coincide with World Water Day.

UNEP was among several participants at an event in the capital, Kinshasa, staged by the National Water and Sanitation Committee, which brought together government representatives, development partners, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and researchers to discuss steps to address the DRC’s water challenges.

Speaking at the forum, UNEP’s DRC Programme Manager, Hassan Partow, said the study confirmed that despite recent progress, including water sector reforms, the scale of the challenge means that the country will not be able to meet its water targets under the UN-set Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which calls for reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015.

The DRC would have to supply an additional 20.3 million people with safe drinking water by 2015 even to meets its national development goals, which are significantly below the MDGs water target, according to UNEP.

“Since peace was brokered in 2003, the Government has gradually managed to reverse the negative trend in water coverage that has plagued the DRC since its period of conflict and turmoil”, said Mr. Partow. “This represents an important achievement which should be applauded.”

“However, the stark reality is that the DRC has one of the fastest urbanization growth rates in the world and this is not being matched with adequate water and sanitation service delivery,” he added.

Based on extensive fieldwork and stakeholder consultations across the country, the UNEP study found that inadequate water and sanitation delivery in the DRC’s rapidly expanding urban centres is due to insufficient, aging and overloaded networks, combined with the degradation of critical water sources and watersheds, such as the Lukunga and N’Djili catchments, which provide millions of people with drinking water in Kinshasa.

According to the study, entitled “Water Issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Challenges and Opportunities,” in addition to major infrastructure improvements, an investment of approximately $70 million over a five-year period is required to help strengthen the water sector.

UNEP recommends innovative strategies such as community-managed water supply systems in urban fringe areas and low-cost technical solutions, including communal tap areas and rainwater harvesting.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), meanwhile, drew attention to an estimated 37 million rural residents in DRC who risk contracting disease because they have no alternative but to draw untreated water directly from rivers or lakes that are likely to be contaminated.

“A child living in a Congolese village is four times more likely to drink contaminated water than someone in town. Yet, all children have equal right to survival and development of which drinking water is a vital component,” said Pierrette Vu Thi, the UNICEF representative in DRC in a statement to mark the World Water Day.

More than 2 million Congolese children under the age of five, or one in five in that age group, are regularly sick with diarrhoea, according to figures from the country’s department of health cited by UNICEF.

“The fact that we are unable to provide each family clean drinking water is an affront,” said Ms. Vu Thi. “Too many children die because we do not respect our responsibility, and their deaths are ignored,” she added.

UN News Center

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They Asked Me if I Preferred to Die or be Raped. I told them, ‘Rape Me Then’

Women at the Mugunga III camp for the forcibly displaced in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

MUGUNGA III CAMP, Democratic Republic of the Congo, March 16 (UNHCR) – Marie* was first raped three years ago during a raid on her village that left her husband and 10 children dead – she was about 70 years old at the time.

In January, the Congolese grandmother was raped again by armed men when she left the shelter of Mugunga III – a hilltop camp for some 2,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo – to search for a teenage girl who had gone missing while foraging for firewood in the forest.

“I told them I was a poor old woman and that I was not interested in politics. They then asked me if I preferred to die or be raped. I told them, ‘Rape me then,’” Marie, struggling with her emotions, recalled of the second incident.

“There were six of them. When one finished, another took his place. They hit me and broke my knee. Other women were also there in the forest and, after being raped, the men pushed pieces of wood inside them and the women died,” she told UNHCR. “I was lucky, they did not kill me.”

Many other women in the DRC’s volatile North Kivu province have suffered similar abuse and family loss and they feel that the outside world is doing too little to help them or to tackle the widespread problem of sexual and gender-based violence in this neglected corner of Africa. Last year, some 15,000 cases of sexual violence were reported in the DRC, mainly in eastern provinces.

“There are many visitors, many delegations, who come to listen to survivors of sexual violence, but we never see results from these visits,” said Jeanne, another forcibly displaced woman at Mugunga III.

She was among a group of 20 women at the camp, many of whom have lost everything, who asked UNHCR visitors in late February to tell the world their stories and to solicit help. “We are touched to see that people think about us,” said another victim, Thérèse, “but we also need help to get over our problems and sustain our families despite all our internal suffering since being raped.”

Women and girls in the Mugunga camps are particularly vulnerable if they have to go out and collect firewood, mostly in the Virunga National Park. They risk sexual assault, but things would be far worse for their menfolk.

“We are scared to go to the forest, but we have no choice,” said Sabine. “We have tried sending our husbands, but if they go they get killed, so we prefer going by ourselves. In the best case, we only get beaten, but often we are raped.”

Marie was not looking for firewood when she was attacked, but she was searching for a 15-year-old girl who had been sent to bring back the precious resource, which is used for cooking or to sell for a small sum.

The 74-year-old was a rich woman before she was forced to flee her home in North Kivu’s Nyabondo district in 2008. “I had more than 100 cows and 40 pigs and goats. I had a house on a hill, a guest house with six bedrooms and a sewing machine,” she recounted. “Everything was stolen.”

Her husband was forced to watch as she was raped, before he was killed. Marie was also shot in the legs and still has to use a crutch to get around. In Mugunga III, she lives in a small hut with six of her grandchildren and the three children of a neighbour who died, including the girl who went missing in Virunga.

“I had heard that girls were kept as sex slaves in Virunga Park,” Marie said, explaining why she went to look in vain for the girl. She said she has felt sick ever since the rape ordeal. “It hurts when I move. It hurts when I walk. It hurts when I breathe . . . I have to go to hospital, but I cannot afford it.”

Aside from such health problems, victims of sexual and gender-based violence also face ostracism from their community, lack of sympathy, mental trauma and problems earning a living and supporting their family.

The women in Mugunga III who approached UNHCR for help, also want support for socio-economic and income-generation projects to help female victims of sexual violence. They want their husbands and sons to be sensitized to the problem. “I talk to my son when rapists are sent to jail. I tell him that if this happens to him one day, I would never visit him in prison,” said Thérèse.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has swiftly responded to one of the requests from Mugunga III by launching a project to provide about 500 women with fuel efficient stoves so that they no longer have to forage in the forest for firewood. They will also be taught to make fuel briquettes from sawdust and paper. The project will benefit all households in the camp.

* Name changed for protection reasons

By Celine Schmitt in Mugunga III Camp, Democratic Republic of the Congo

UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency

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DR Congo: UN Report Details Suffering of Rape Victims, Recommends Reparations

 3 March 2011 –A United Nations report unveiled today highlights the deprivations endured by thousands of victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including poverty, denial of justice and lack of access to medical and psychological treatment, and recommends the establishment of a reparations fund.

Remedies and Reparations for Victims of Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” prepared by a special high-level panel appointed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, reveals that the survivors of sexual violence have no recourse to compensation and other forms of remedies or reparations.

During the panel’s visit to DRC from 27 September to 13 October 2010, its members heard from 61 survivors of sexual violence, ranging from a girl raped when she was three years old to a 61-year-old grandmother, about what they perceived their actual needs to be.

The panel met with some individuals and groups, the report says, “including victims who had contracted HIV/AIDS as a result of rape, victims who had become pregnant and had children as a result of rape, victims whose husbands had rejected them following their rape, child victims of rape, victims of rape who had taken their cases to court seeking justice, and victims of rape by civilian perpetrators.

“Among the victims with special needs whom the panel met were a girl with sensory disabilities, a young woman who is blind, and four men, two of whom were raped and two of whom were sexually assaulted in other ways,” the report states.

Health care and education were among the highest priorities conveyed to the panel by victims.

“They are determined, but in many cases unable, to send their children to school. Those who have contracted HIV/AIDS are deeply troubled by concern over what will happen to their children when they die. Many victims who met with the panel have been displaced from their homes. They expressed the need for socio-economic reintegration programmes.”

Many women never report the rapes, either due to fear of stigmatization or lack of faith in the judicial system. “There is no point in making an accusation,” one woman said. “I learned by example from most people raped before me that there is no justice,” she said.

The report notes that “these victims expressed great frustration because their perpetrators have escaped from prison while they have not been paid the damages … even in those cases where the State has been held liable.”

The report notes that most victims interviewed were unable to seek justice through the courts because they cannot identify their perpetrators, or in some cases, because perpetrators have not been arrested.

The panel recommends that a fund to support reparations be established as a matter of priority, and that the management of the fund include representatives of the Government of the DRC, the UN, donors, civil society, and survivors themselves.

The panel was comprised of Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Elisabeth Rehn, former Minister of Defense of Finland; and Denis Mukwege, Medical Director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the capital of DRC’s South Kivu province.

Commenting on the report, Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who is currently visiting victims in the eastern DRC city of Goma, said sexual violence undermined the social fabric and reinforced a vicious cycle of violence.

(UN News Center)

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Victims of Sexual Violence in DR Congo Face Bleak Situation, UN Report

Report highlights the deprivations endured by victims of sexual violence in the Congo (DRC), including poverty, denial of justice and lack of access to medical and psychological treatment

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