A brief history of the Democratic Republic of Congo

A brief history of the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) consists of civil war and corruption.

In 1960 they achieved Independence,which was followed up by a civil war and a temporary fragmentation of the country.In 1965 Mobutu Sese Seko seized power. Then in 1997 rebelsousted Mobutu and Laurent Kabila becomes president.

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From 1997 until 2003 there was another civil war, pulling inseveral surrounding countries (Africa’s first world war). From 2003 to 2016 conflictpersisted in the east, where there are still armed groups. In 2006 the first free election in four decades took place.

Joseph Kabila won the run-off vote. In2015 at least 30 were killed in protests againstproposed changes to the electoral law (AFP). The law was designed to allowPresident Kabila to maintain power, which violated their constitution. Pro-governmentgroups and the opposition groups agreed to a deal created by the influentialRoman Catholic Church which averted a full-fledged crisis.

The deal kept Kabilain office until elections in late 2017. His ruling is in conjunction with atransitional watchdog and a premier chosen from within the ranks an oppositiongroup. The DRC is a large country with plentiful economic resources, butrecently they have become center to Africa’s world war”, resulting incivilian suffering. There is some militia that fight in the east, where thereis a large United Nations force that is trying to regain order. The country is dealingwith the arrival of 500,000 refugees fleeing Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and the CentralAfrican Republic. Currently the DRC is classified as a Level 3 emergency,which means the entire humanitarian system is needed in order to respond. Italso puts this crisis onto the same level of severity as those in Iraq, Syriaand Yemen (“Raising”). The DRC has already passed their tipping point, when it obtainedthe largest amount of newdisplacements in the world.

Another 1.5 million new displacements have been recorded so far in2017, a 50% increase on the 922,000 reported in 2016 (“DRC”). Fighting betweenarmed groups and regional tensions have persisted in the DRC on and off fordecades. Recently released displacement figures bring the total number ofinternally displaced people (IDPs) to 3.9 million (Neuzd).  The provincesand regions with the largest numbers of IDPs include North Kivu with morethan a million, Greater Kasai with 762,000, Tanganyika with 584,000 and SouthKivu with 545,000 (UNHCR). The UN Refugee Agency has warned that more displacement is probable inthese regions. TheWorld Food Programme and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimate that 7.

7 million people are food insecure (Staff). Farmers inKasai have missed two consecutive planting seasons because of the violence,which broke out last August with the killing of a regional tribal leader whohad defied the government of President Kabila.The violence adds to an already unstable situation in the DRC.

The region nowaccounts for more than 40% of the DRC’s food insecure population (Staff). The country is also in the midst of a cholera outbreak affecting 20 of its 26 provinces(Gayer). Outbreaks and epidemics are more likely in unsanitary conditions, lowincome countries, and displaced populations are especially at risk. The countryhas been in conflict for the majority of 20 years, but evidence shows that thesituation for the most vulnerable people has deteriorated severely in recentyears and is on track to worsen. This population is under immunized either dueto conflict and/or geographical remoteness. Risks are compounded by poorsurveillance in many areas and widespread gaps in population immunity. Sinceconflict has broken out, more than 630,000 people have been displaced in KasaiCentral alone (“DRC”). As of September 2014, CDC directly supported theprovision of antiretroviral treatment to 24,973 adults (Gayer).

In less thanfive years, more than 3 million people have died, most from preventable andtreatable diseases. The health infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of theCongo is broken. Without international support to restore basic health careservices, the humanitarian crisis in the DRC will only continue to worsen; over1,000 people die every day as a result of the conflict and 98% of these deathsare due to diseases are preventable and treatable (“DRC”). Malaria is deadly:over 400 children die every day and almost half of them from malaria. The conflict has spread to five provincesalready and it could be the catalyst that starts another civil war. Food andvaccines need to be sent to the provinces and displaced people, as well as thecreation of more vaccines for those affected by the growing unrest. These conditions,which are revealed after war and conflict, creating the favorable conditions necessaryfor the emergence of infectious diseases.

Due to the inadequate infectioncontrol practices in the healthcare facilities of the DCR several outbreaks ofpneumonic plague have been documented in Oriental Province in northeastern DRC,where war has hampered control efforts (Gayer). Outbreaks occurred in a campfor mine workers in the Bas-Uele District from December 2004 through March 2005and in the Ituri District (100 cases, CFR 19%) from May through June 2006(UNHCR). During these outbreaks, the availability of humanitarian access torelevant sites is difficult. This can delay the response teams that arenecessary for both investigations and for the implementation of control.

Accessto vaccination campaigns can also be interrupted for months and sometimes even upto years during protracted conflict due to long-term inadequacies in cold chainand logistics or ongoing insecurity (Gayer). The number one cause of deathoverall in the DRC is Diarrhea,Lower Respiratory, and other Common Infectious Diseases which are an effect ofthe destroyed health care system. Neonatal are the third highest cause which isanother effect directly linked to the violence and conflict in the country.

Low vaccine coverage has played themajor role in reemergence of poliomyelitis in conflict-affected countries andhas also pushed back global polio eradication targets (Gayer).The Democratic Republic of the Congo is indesperate need of a revived healthcare system. War torn and ravaged, theprofessionals on the ground have little to no access to adequate supplies orthe training necessary to handle the situations that they are in. The DRC hasfelt the long-term consequences of civil war for far too long. The chronic lackof investment in health, education, and public works has to end. There havealready been civil wars within the countries and different outcomes have alreadyplayed out.

Instead of waiting until the end of the conflict to help people, atwhich time might be too late, there needs to be a push towards interventionduring the conflict period. The rebuilding of the healthcare system is going toneed funding and resources that are currently unavailable, but are extremelynecessary. The current crisis has been referred to as the forgotten crisis forfar too long. It is time to allocate funding and take the time to plan out along term strategy for their healthcare system, while still being able to treatthe current issues that are going on.