One thousand people die every day in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and nearly half of these deaths are accounted for by children under five years of age. These deaths add daily to the cumulative total of 3.8 million fatalities since the crisis began in August 1998 to the end of April 2004. This makes the DRC conflict worse than any other conflict since the end of World War II and in terms of death toll exceeds other recent crises, including Bosnia (estimated 250,000 dead), Rwanda (800,000), Kosovo (12,000), and Darfur in Sudan (70,000).

  Despite this, the international community has failed to take the necessary action to alleviate the crisis. During 2004, only 42% of funding sought by the United Nations for its activities had been raised by August, while contributions by the United States Agency for International Assistance to DRC for 2004 have declined by almost 25% when compared with 2003. "No other recent conflict has claimed as many lives and mortality rates remain elevated at an alarming level. In spite of these unambiguous facts, the international community has not yet mobilized the necessary will or resources to effectively address the crisis," according to the latest mortality study, a joint effort by the New York based International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Australia's Burnet Institute.

  The study is the fourth conducted by the IRC. The first three surveys, conducted between 2000 and 2002, reported that an estimated 3.3 million people had died as a result of the conflict. The fourth and latest study, covering the period from January 2003 to April 2004, is among the largest ever conducted in a conflict zone, says the IRC. The IRC said investigators surveyed 19,500 households in total, visiting every province in the country, and measuring mortality among nearly 58 million people.

  The report comes as news this week of renewed fighting for the control of the eastern town of Kanyabayonga. Meanwhile, the AU called last week for a strengthening of the UN mission in the DRC and maximum restraint between the DRC and Rwanda. This after Rwanda said it planned to send troops into the DRC to pursue ex-FAR/Interahamwe militia responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

  The IRC study reports that 18 months after the official end of the conflict and signing of a peace agreement, more than 31,000 people continue to die every month as a result of the conflict. The IRC said people continue to die at a rate that is one third higher than the average rate for sub-Saharan Africa. "Between January 2003 and April 2004 almost 500,000 deaths occurred beyond what would normally be expected during this period. This is equivalent to over 31,000 lives lost every month and more than 1,000 people dying every day as a result of the conflict," the survey said. Death rates are highest in the unstable eastern provinces, where the crude mortality rate was more than one third higher than those for the West of the country.

  The IRC study said the majority of deaths were due to easily preventable and treatable diseases. "The most devastating byproducts of the conflict have been the disruption of the country's health services and food supplies. As a result, the vast majority of deaths have been among civilians and have been due to easily preventable and treatable illnesses such as fever and malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and malnutrition."

  In December 2002 a peace agreement was finally endorsed after a devastating war that began in 1998 and at its height pulled in Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda. The peace deal established a two-year transitional government in July 2003 and aims to lead to national, representative elections during 2005. However, continued destabilization in the east of the country highlights the delicate nature of the peace process.


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