London: The Congo conflict is the deadliest humanitarian crisis of the last 60 years but the world is still not doing enough to save lives, according to a new survey.
Its authors pleaded urgently for more aid and tougher security in the wake of a war estimated to have killed nearly four million people, mainly through hunger and disease.
"Congo is the deadliest crisis anywhere in the world over the past 60 years," said Richard Brennan, health director of the New York-based International Rescue Committee that counted the human cost of the conflict.
"Ignorance about its scale and impact is almost universal and international engagement remains completely out of proportion to humanitarian need," Brennan said after the survey findings were published in the Lancet medical journal.
The UN's 17,000-strong Congo peacekeeping force, its biggest in the world, is trying to establish order across Africa's third largest country in the wake of the war which began in 1998 and officially ended in 2003.
Bands of gunmen still intimidate civilians in large areas, particularly in the east whose mineral riches are believed to have fuelled a conflict that at one point drew in six foreign armies and was dubbed Africa's first world war.
Brennan said improved security is vital to lower the death toll and argued that aid must be dramatically increased.
The survey showed that the death toll in the Congo conflict so far was higher than the numbers killed in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Darfur.
After surveying 19,500 households across the former Belgian colony, the survey calculated that the mortality rate was 40 per cent higher than that of sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 1,200 people dying every day.
Up to 20 per cent of children are malnourished. Most deaths, especially in children, occur from easily preventable illnesses.
"National and international efforts to address the crisis remain grossly inadequate," the survey concluded, arguing that more, better trained peacekeeping troops were speedily needed.
The survey authors' outrage was echoed by Evelyn Depoortere of the Paris-based aid agency Epicentre who said "Rich donor nations are miserably failing the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo."
"Every few months the mortality equivalent of two southeast Asian tsunamis ploughs through its territory," Depoortere added