Congo conflict claims 5 million lives
I am pretty aware of what's going on in the world, as I know most people are at nowpublic, but to see the numbers sometimes really puts everything in perspective.
(CNN) -- Hopes are high that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and armed groups can end a decade of fighting that a new report says has claimed the lives of more than 5 million people.
Rebel soldiers loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda pictured in December near Goma
The two sides have been attending a conference for more than two weeks in the eastern city of Goma and late Tuesday, they appeared close to signing an agreement. Their discussions are focusing on peace for the country's eastern Kivu provinces.
Humanitarian group, the International Rescue Committee, released a report Wednesday saying that conflict and humanitarian crisis in Congo have taken the lives of some 5.4 million people since 1998, and that 45,000 people continue to die there every month.
IRC President George Rupp said the loss of life was equivalent to the entire population of Denmark, or the state of Colorado, dying within a decade.
Even with the country's violence, the IRC found that most of the deaths were from non-violent causes like malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition.
Nearly half the deaths were among children younger than 5, even though they are only 19 percent of the population, the IRC said.
The group said the national rate of mortality is nearly 60 percent higher than the average in the sub-Saharan region.
The IRC's regional director said a peace deal -- even if it covers only the east of the country -- would have a wider impact.
"The significance is huge in the sense that the troubles in North Kivu have really been a major source of instability not only for the people in North Kivu itself, but for people in the surrounding region as well," said Alyoscia D'Onofrio, who spoke to CNN from Bukavu, in South Kivu province.
D'Onofrio said a peace deal would signal that the Congolese government can take control of security even in restive areas like the east. That in turn would improve regional security, since conflict in the east has tended to draw in neighboring states, he said.
The Kivu provinces border Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.
"I am cautiously optimistic about the possibilities for peace, and certainly, the significance of that peace would be huge," D'Onofrio said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross was also watching the outcome of the conference.
"We really hope that they will commit (to) something, and there is actually lots of hope that they will be able to find a kind of agreement," said ICRC representative Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, who spoke to CNN from the Congolese capital of Kinshasa.