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Congo: A Death Toll Rivaling The Holocaust

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Congo: A Death Toll Rivaling The Holocaust

Posted by Laura Heaton on February 11, 2010

Congo: A Death Toll Rivaling The Holocaust

With an estimated death toll of six million, the Holocaust is widely viewed as the singularly most devastating period in modern history. The word holocaust, derived from the Greek words meaning “burnt whole,” is now used almost exclusively to describe the state-sponsored massacre of European Jews. In the aftermath, countries came together to create the United Nations and craft international treaties intended to build a more cohesive international community that would be better prepared to respond in the future to horrors like they had just witnessed in Nazi Germany.

Yet despite the increased interconnectedness of the world and the international provisions in place to respond to humanitarian crises, the conflict in eastern Congo rages on even today without an effective international response –- surpassing the Holocaust in number of years and now, even in number of lives lost.

In 2007, the International Rescue Committee, or IRC, released the results of a pivotal study, which found that 5.4 million people had died in eastern Congo since 1998. They also found that the death toll was mounting at a rate of about 45,000 people per month. But those figures are now nearly three years old. In a New York Times op-ed this week, Nick Kristof’s calculation caught my attention: “That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.”
Think about that … 6.9 million. It’s hard to fathom.

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This post is part of a new series that will appear every Thursday on’s Stop Genocide blog.

Photo: Dusk at Mugunga IDP camp, North Kivu (Enough/Laura Heaton)