At a ministerial conference convened by the UN and EC and hosted by the Government of Belgium, Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said, “We must end this tyranny of silence. We can, we must, do more to alleviate such extreme suffering. Now is the time to act.”Through a video message, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said every penny of the $681 million 2006 Democratic Republic of the Congo Humanitarian Action Plan is “desperately needed.”“We are talking about a country where 1,200 people die in silence every day from the lingering effects of war,” said Mr. Annan, who was meeting with U.S. President Bush in Washington D.C. “During six years of armed conflict, almost four million people perished. That makes it the deadliest conflict since World War Two.”Adding that the years of conflict have affected nearly all of the country’s 60 million citizens, Mr. Annan said the Action Plan is an ambitious strategy to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the Congolese people. If successful, it also can help usher in stability after the elections scheduled for this summer.In December, about 25 million Congolese registered to vote and endorsed a Constitution that paved the way for the country’s first free elections in more than four decades. The referendum was the giant African nation’s first democratic ballot since 1965.“These people have demonstrated their faith in the future,” Mr. Annan said. “But their faith must be backed by tangible support. The Action Plan before you today offers that support.”The product of intensive work by all humanitarian players in the DRC, the 2006 Action Plan wraps together more than 330 projects with a price tag of $681 million (€571 million). It envelopes a strategy to satisfy people’s urgent life-saving needs as well as targeted programmes that go past 12 months and aim to speed recovery and reduce poverty after the elections.It addresses a wide range of the Congolese people’s needs: food security, health, reintegration, protection, HIV/AIDS, coordination, education, water and sanitation, shelter, mine action and gender.As a result of sustained conflict, more than 1.6 million people remain displaced and just under 1.7 million recently returned persons are starting to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. In the troubled eastern provinces, however, killings, abductions and sexual assaults go on and access to some areas remains daunting for relief workers.Louis Michel, European Union Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said there are few places on the planet where the gap between humanitarian needs and available resources is so large. “But there are also few places in the world where peace and stability can so dramatically reverse this situation,” Mr. Michel added.