EXCESS DEATHS IN CONGO

More civilians died in emergency conditions
(excess deaths, above what would be a normal level) in 5 eastern provinces
of the Democratic Rep. of Congo (formerly Zaire) during the past 22 months,
than all the emergency deaths of the rest of the world combined during the s
ame time period, finds a report released this past week by the Intl. Rescue
Committee (IRC), a New York-based non-profit that has been active in
providing life-saving aid in refugee camps in nearby areas
for 20 years.  Extrapolating from retrospective surveys of 1,000 families in
Orientale, N Kivu, S Kivu, Maniema & Katanga provinces,
the IRC team arrived at the conservative conclusion that 2.3 million deaths
occurred during the recall period (22 months), of which
600,000 deaths would be statistically normal for the population of 19
million:  thus, 1.7 million excess deaths are calculated to
have occurred, a number far greater than estimated excess deaths in other
recent crises - Kosovo, Sierra Leone, E Timor, Sudan, etc.  In order to make
extrapolations to regions, the IRC inquiry is based  on random sampling of
families, using unique spatial sampling methods across large remote areas,
areas which have been largely ignored by intl. agencies & which receive
little or no intl. aid.  The report, "Mortality in Eastern DRC - Results
from 5 Mortality Surveys" by Les Roberts, was presented this week to UN
members by the Sec. Gen., reported in dozens of major newspapers worldwide,
& is available for download at:  www.theIRC.org/mortality.htm .  As in
similar high-mortality emergencies, most of the deaths resulted from common
health conditions such as diarrhea, measles, malnutrition, malaria, anemia &
meningitis which are preventable at low cost with simple interventions.  But
Dr. Roberts found that most of these common health problems were linked,
ultimately, to armed violence, banditry, rape & forcible displacements of
Congolese families, as a result of the back & forth movement of armies
across the regions.  In general, civilian mortality seems to result in
roughly equal proportions from Hutu-led (Interhamwe) & from Tutsi-led (RCD)
troops, each at war with one another.  The report says:   "In Eastern DRC,
war means disease... Violence & infectious disease deaths are inseparably
linked...Many of the Kalonge displaced & Moba residents reported that their
family members died of malaria or diarrhea while hiding in the forest after
their village was attacked.  ...they had no food in the forest."   The
report finds evidence of measles, cholera, polio & meningitis epidemics
which have until now escaped intl. surveillance efforts.  IRC's findings
suggest that the intl. community has over-looked the humanitarian impact of
conflict on a large emergency-affected population.  In contrast to large
amounts of aid that was provided to Rwanda & to refugee camps of Rwandans &
Burundians, hardly any aid has
been provided to the Congolese civilians during the more recent conflict.
Aid agencies estimate 20,000 recently displaced persons
from Kisangani (MSF estimates 1,100 war wounded), & 60,000+ in the southern
Katanga province.  Overall, the UN estimates some 1.3M people are displaced
in DRC.  10,000s of refugees are fleeing Congo now into Malawi (on top of
refugee caseload in Tanzania).  This week UN Sec. Gen. Annan said he wants
the UN to force foreign armies (Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe)
out of DRC. UN peacekeeping troops remain on stand-by to enter Congo, with
Nigeria & S. Africa agreeing this week to contribute troops.  Uganda &
Rwanda agreed last week on a ceasefire over northern city of Kisangani,
after which Rwanda drove off Uganda forces.