Posted Jan. 23, 2008 – With the death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo surpassing any other conflict since World War II, an international aid organization is calling for an increased commitment to improving health conditions and ending lingering vestiges of violence.
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"When war destroys a country's economy and infrastructure, there's no quick-fix," says Dr. Richard Brennan, who helped pen a recent report for the International Rescue Committee on the crisis affecting the central African nation. "Significant improvement in Congo 's health and mortality will require years of unwavering commitment from the government and the international community and substantial financial investment. Sadly, the humanitarian crisis in Congo continues to be overlooked and funding remains disproportionate to the enormity of need."
The perfect storm of war, disease and malnutrition are snuffing out an unbelievable 45,000 Congolese every month, and over the past decade, the conflict-driven humanitarian crisis has claimed 5.4 million victims, according to the survey, conducted with Australia's Burnet Institute.
"Congo 's loss is equivalent to the entire population of Denmark or the state of Colorado perishing within a decade," George Rupp, president of the IRC, said in a statement.
Tuesday’s release of the survey coincided with the Congo government was slated to sign a ceasefire with eastern rebel and militia factions, designed to smother smoldering tensions in the war, which has lasted from 1998 to 2003. The war formally ended five years ago, but "ongoing strife and poverty continue to take a staggering toll," Rupp said. "The conflict and its aftermath, in terms of fatalities, surpass any other since World War II.”
Malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by conflict, were the top killers in Congo , the survey said.
"Most of the deaths are due to easily treatable and preventable diseases through the collapse of health systems and the disruption of livelihoods," Brennan said, noting that Congo spends only $15 per person each year on health care, the lowest of any country in the world. "If you're in the United States , we spend $6,000 per person per year," Brennan said.