According to a study in this week’s Lancet, nearly 4 million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a result of the conflict which began in 1998.
Richard Brennan et al report the findings of a nationwide household mortality survey conducted between April and July, 2004. The national crude mortality rate of 2.1 deaths per 1000 per month was 40% higher than the sub-Saharan regional level – about 38,000 excess deaths per month. The total death toll from the conflict (1998-2004) was estimated to be 3.9 million.
To put that in perspective, twice as many people die preventable deaths each year in the Congo as died in the Asian Tsunami last year.
The proximate cause of the vast majority of these additional deaths is infectious diseases which could be easily prevented or treated, if security and humanitarian assistance were provided.
Dr Brennan comments:
"This is the fourth in a series of surveys since 2000 that have consistently drawn the same conclusion-Congo is the deadliest crisis anywhere in the world over the past 60 years. It is a sad indictment on us all that, seven years into this crisis, ignorance about its scale and impact is almost universal, and that international engagement remains completely out of proportion to humanitarian need. Major governments, the United Nations, the African Union, humanitarian agencies, and the international media must all play a role: improved security is essential to lower the death toll; greater political engagement is urgently required; the parties to the conflict must be held to account; and the level of humanitarian aid must be increased dramatically. The citizens of DR Congo must finally be given the chance to live their lives in peace and security, and to achieve their full potential".
On these figures, the conflict in the DRC has now taken more lives than any since the Second World War.
The rich countries could, with pitifully little effort, step in to prevent further conflict, provide security for the people of DRC, and provide the essential humanitarian support needed to end this slaughter. But we won’t.