UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Gugu Mbatha-Raw calls for urgent support for millions of displaced Congolese

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Gugu Mbatha-Raw sits with Vicky and her family at a settlement site in Kalehe, South Kivu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  © UNHCR/Caroline Irby

LONDON – Actor and Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is calling for urgent support for millions of displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), following a visit to the region last week.

During her visit, Mbatha-Raw met with displaced individuals and families experiencing life-threatening hardship, caused by the toxic mix of ongoing conflict, increased living costs, dwindling support from the international community, and the effects of climate change.

When visiting South Kivu, DRC, Mbatha-Raw met Vicky who explained that she is confronted daily with unbearable decisions, such as whether to prioritise food or medicine, whilst also being unable to send all of her children to school. Vicky’s story is just one amongst millions in what is currently Africa’s largest displacement crisis. 

I’m extremely concerned,” said Mbatha-Raw. “Away from the headlines, millions of displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are struggling to survive. First, they were forced to flee unimaginable violence, and now, due to severe underfunding and shrinking life-saving assistance, they are forced to make impossible choices that no one should have to make. As the situation worsens women and girls are also at greater risk of violence. We cannot allow this to continue.”

As Mbatha-Raw departed from the DRC, UNHCR was repositioning resources in North Kivu to aid thousands displaced by fresh clashes between armed groups and Congolese forces, including from a site that until this week had hosted more than 23,000 people already forced to flee violence.                               

Mbatha-Raw visited programmes by UNHCR and partners, which focus on providing shelter and essential items such as mats, blankets, jerry cans, and sanitary products for women. She also met internally displaced women and girls who were survivors of sexual violence to learn how medical and psycho-social support and livelihoods training were enabling them to rebuild their lives. Whilst witnessing the positive impact that can be made where limited funding is available, she also saw the desperate scale of the needs which cannot be met with current funding levels.

UNHCR recently launched a report showing that the funding for these lifesaving programmes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and many other countries is not matching the growing needs. To date, only 42 per cent of UNHCR’s requirements of US$225 million for the DRC this year is funded. If UNHCR does not receive additional funding before the end of the year, it will be forced to make further cuts in lifesaving assistance, putting more lives in jeopardy.

In her role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Mbatha-Raw is calling on governments, the private sector and individuals to provide urgent funding to UNHCR to meet the most pressing needs of those displaced. Without such support, the situation will continue to deteriorate, and UNHCR fears that further cuts in assistance will be catastrophic.

She added: “In the Democratic Republic of Congo, as in many forgotten emergencies around the world, displaced families don’t have enough shelter, food or clean water to survive. In the same way that the world has shown solidarity and compassion to those displaced by other crises, including the war in Ukraine, we must now unite to support those in the DRC and other underfunded emergencies.”

B-roll: https://media.unhcr.org/Share/3lvav1o4o766wc603c2pmrso13gf15iu

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