M23 rebels patrol near Rushuru in the Democratic Republic of Congo on August 3, 2013. File picture: James Akena

Kinshasa - The United Nations on Friday called for continued support for the strife-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, amid fears that aid efforts risked being overshadowed by the crises in Syria and the Central African Republic.

“We would like to advocate for the situation in the eastern DRC to remain on the international agenda and to get the attention that it needs,” said Yoka Brandt, deputy executive director of the UN's children agency UNICEF.

“This should not be a forgotten crisis.”

Brandt was speaking at a joint press conference in Kinshasa with the UN refugee agency and the UN's World Food Programme following a visit to the country's restive east.

“We are very much aware that we are dealing with an international context were resources are constrained,” Brandt said, in a reference to the urgent humanitarian needs in DR Congo's neighbouring countries South Sudan and the Central African Republic, as well as in war-torn Syria.

Eastern parts of DR Congo have been wracked by violence for nearly 20 years. Following an offensive by the national army backed by a special UN brigade, the powerful M23 rebel group laid down its arms in November, in a significant victory for the government.

But several dozen armed movements - community-based militias, army defectors and rebel forces, both native to the DR Congo and from neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda - remain highly active in the east and are often involved in the struggle to control its rich mineral resources.

In December, the UN's intervention force, whose mission is to neutralise all the armed groups active in the impoverished country, boosted its presence in the area with the aim of taking back land seized by various militia.

According to the UN, 2.9 million people are currently displaced by conflict in the DR Congo, including 1.1 million in the eastern province of North Kivu alone.

The number of people suffering from food insecurity in the country was set to climb from 6.4 million in 2013 to 6.7 million this year, out of a population of around 70 million, according to the WFP. - Sapa-AFP