We’ll be covering war and strife later in the semester and we’ll note that the nature of warfare has changed over the years. Whereas most wars in the past were of the inter-state variety, contemporary wars are mostly intra-state (i.e, wars resulting from civil and ethnic conflict). A worrisome characteristic of these contemporary wars is that the vast majority of victims are civilians and they generally succumb to factors, such as disease and hunger, not related to direct conflict. In a new report by the International Red Cross, we learn that 45,000 persons have died (and continue to die) monthly from civil war in Congo.
The effects of one of the bloodiest wars in modern history continue to unfold in relative obscurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 5.4 million lives have been lost as a result of conflict since 1998, according to a nationwide mortality survey that will be released today.
While the conflict in the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan has begun to draw substantial international attention, the humanitarian crisis resulting from conflict in the Congo has received almost none. About 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur, and two million displaced.
“People aren’t dying dramatically in Congo,” said Richard Brennan, a lead researcher with the U.S.-based International Rescue Committee, which conducted the survey. “It’s not like a Rwandan genocide where people die in a very dramatic and acute manner. They are dying quietly and anonymously.”
In fact, very few of the recorded deaths were caused directly by violence, roughly 0.4 per cent nationwide, the report says. Instead, the principal causes of death across Congo, a largely undeveloped country the size of Western Europe, were malnutrition, preventable diseases and pregnancy-related conditions.
“Our experience in poorly developed countries over the last 20 years is that in most conflicts, the majority of deaths, frequently over 90 per cent, are due to the indirect consequences of that conflict,” Dr. Brennan said. “They are no less devastating, but they are very much below our radar screen in the West.”