|Population||UN Population Division (as of 2016)|
|Number of IDPs (Conflict and violence)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|New displacements (Conflict and violence)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|New displacements (Disasters)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|Refugees||UNHCR (as of 2015)|
IDMC’s estimates are based on the number of IDPs reported by OCHA and the Commission on Population Movement (CMP), a consortium of UN agencies and NGOs that compiles displacement data from the various affected regions in the country. There has been a significant increase in displacement during 2016, mainly due to the worsening of community clashes in certain provinces in eastern and central DRC.Download extended figures analysis (PDF, 454 KB)
More than 20 years of internal displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) show that high levels of vulnerability have remained unaddressed in significant parts of the population. Chronic political instability and the cyclical nature of displacement in the DRC have left IDPs far from achieving durable solutions, and the country is incapable of making progress on its development and poverty reduction goals in the years to come.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a resource-rich country with huge economic potential, but that potential is limited by chronic social and political instability. The country’s vast number and amount of minerals and precious metals have not become the basis for social progress and wellbeing, but instead a fertile ground for corruption and violence.
In the 1990s, the country experienced active conflict, from which it still suffers in terms of high protracted displacement and in the form of repeated clashes and significant new displacement occurring every few years. Difficulties in upholding transparent and effective governance mechanisms, including for the presidential and parliamentary elections at the end of 2016, mean that the country faces serious economic and social decline. This deterioration goes hand in hand with cyclical political crises that generate large numbers of new displacements each time. Slumping prices for raw materials in recent years have further exacerbated the economic challenges faced by the DRC and limit the state’s capacity to provide basic services for its citizens and its large population of internally displaced people. As a result, poverty in the country is pervasive and the country is ranked 176th out of 187 countries in terms of human development.
Political instability in the early 1990s and the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 pushed the DRC into full-scale civil war in 1996, and by the end of 2000 the country had around two million IDPs. The establishment of a transitional government in 2003 brought relative levels of peace and stability. This allowed the return of many IDPs, but many areas, particularly in the eastern provinces, remain unstable, and the continued presence of numerous armed groups is an ongoing threat to the population. Local ethnic divisions used and abused by armed groups and the military alike, coupled with corruption and the illegal exploitation of mineral resources, mean that the process of peace building and reconciliation has been slow to non-existent. Consequently, new displacements of hundreds of thousands of people have occurred on a regular basis over the last decade.
There is also severe competition for other natural resources, such as fishing grounds and arable land. This competition lies at the root of a large proportion of local insurgencies and wider conflict in the country. The forced displacement of people has been used as a strategy to gain access to productive land.
In addition, low government capacity, pervasive poverty and inequality, and environmental degradation all converge to create high levels of vulnerability to a range of natural hazards, in particular volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and droughts. Floods regularly displace large numbers of people, hitting communities that are already living in high-risk conditions with weak housing infrastructure, fragile subsistence livelihoods, and limited access to water, energy and social services. The city of Goma, for example, is directly exposed to the Virunga volcanic chain, which has some of the most active volcanoes in the world and puts the city’s more than one million inhabitants at risk of displacement and its economy at risk of destruction.
Displacements arising from slow-onset hazard events such as droughts also occur regularly, as water scarcity and soil degradation drive already vulnerable populations from their unproductive lands. With climate change, the impacts of both floods and droughts in the DRC – and the related displacement – can be expected to increase in both frequency and severity.
Unreliable international assistance and a lack of strategic vision on the part of humanitarian and development partners in the country have further increased displacement risk. Repeated phases of attention, with commensurate humanitarian funding, followed by neglect, during which essential support for development investments and social protection was limited, have enabled displacement crises to recur every few years. As the country has been in conflict for most of the past 25 years, the risk of displacement has increased rather than diminished for the most vulnerable.
In 2016, the DRC topped the list of countries with the highest numbers of new displacements related to conflict. The overwhelming majority of IDPs in the country regularly cite violence as the main cause of their displacement. North and South Kivu provinces have the most IDPs, and large numbers have also been displaced by inter-communal clashes in southern and central regions such as Tanganyika, Kasai, Kasai-Oriental, Ituri and Uele.
Displacement is often short-term but occurs on multiple occasions, as IDPs seek to stay close to their areas of origin and maintain access to their livelihoods. Shifting front lines have pushed IDPs further away from their homes, making returns more difficult and putting them at greater risk of impoverishment and further displacement. As a result, IDPs also find themselves having to move across borders into Angola, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Sudan when they are unable to find safety. Porous borders and a lack of coordination between countries have generated circular cross-border displacement, with people being uprooted multiple times and having to seek protection in different cultural and social contexts. This phenomenon also shows that unresolved internal displacement generates refugee flows with effects that may further destabilise host countries.
A vast majority of IDPs in the DRC live outside camps, with relatives, members of the same ethnic groups and church communities often providing support. However, the local governments and communities that host IDPs are struggling to meet the needs of large numbers of additional inhabitants. Local economies regularly collapse as fields, food stocks and markets are destroyed, making trade and local commerce very difficult to maintain.
As a result, the country’s already underperforming health and education sectors and its infrastructure are severely overstretched, and malnutrition and epidemics that are not addressed effectively create new displacements. The limited capacities of local governments in particular are further eroded by the need to deal with displacements on a massive scale. This situation also creates new tensions over scarce resources and between different ethnic groups, for which local customary law may offer limited guidance.
The situation of protracted and multiple displacement in North Kivu has left the IDPs in the region with acute protection needs. Security concerns are paramount during the resurgence of active conflict and inter-ethnic and communal clashes, and basic services and access to livelihoods are pressing needs throughout.
As in other displacement contexts, indigenous groups and ethnic minorities in the DRC are also particularly vulnerable. These include the Pygmies, who have been uprooted and displaced from their lands since the early 2000s and have very limited access to income and basic services and literally no public voice.
Displaced children who are separated from their families are highly vulnerable, with many of them forced to join armed groups, as reported in North Kivu. Given that rape and sexual violence are used regularly as instruments of power, children are also at risk of suffering sexual violence, as are displaced women and men.
IDPs in camp settings can also be at risk. Provincial governments have sought to close camps, making humanitarian efforts more challenging. Five camps in North Kivu closed in 2016, and it is not known what type of solutions the affected IDPs have found.