KINSHASA - The world’s leading humanitarian action forum on Tuesday said that crushing levels of violence and displacement are fuelling unprecedented civilian suffering in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) called for greater international support for the Congolese people to avoid a potential catastrophe for the country and the region.

Current conflicts have escalated levels of gender-based violence, displacement and hunger in the restive eastern region where multiple armed groups are battling the national army and each other for control.

Over the past few months over 700,000 people have been forced from their homes, bringing the total forcibly displaced to 7.2 million – an all-time high.

The IASC said it was important that the Congolese receive swift and sufficient aid, however, the existing Humanitarian Response Plan is severely underfunded with only 16 per cent of the needed $2.6 billion received.

Civilian lives at risk

With insufficient funds, humanitarian organizations are not capable of fully assisting civilians, leaving mostly women and girls in a vulnerable state as some have been exposed to high levels of sexual violence.

Children are also at risk of being abducted, killed, maimed or recruited into armed groups.

Over a quarter of the DRC’s population – more than 25 million people – are facing emergency levels of food insecurity, and with a deteriorating health sector, diseases like cholera and measles have been quickly spreading.

The IASC statement said the root causes of the DRC crisis need to be addressed before it can end. These include “conflict, the exploitation of natural resources, illicit financial flows, prevailing gender inequality and development deficits.”