Renewed violent clashes between non-state armed groups and government forces have sparked the latest emergency, with 300,000 people forced to flee their homes in North Kivu province only in February.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, another 20,000 fled at the beginning of the week and nearly 50,000 were displaced from the Kitchanga region of Masisi territory during the week of 17 February.
“Civilians continue to pay heavy and bloody price conflicts, including women and children who narrowly escaped the violence and are now sleeping in the open, in spontaneous or organized places, exhausted and traumatized,” says UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh.
“UNHCR teams on the ground reported terrifying testimonies of human rights violations in affected areasparticularly in Rutshuru and Masisi territories, including arbitrary killings, kidnappings, extortion and rapes,” the UNHCR spokesperson continued.
Lack of resources
Conditions are difficult for those arriving in spontaneous or organized places, which the UN refugee agency said are now buckling under the strain.
Resurgent violence in eastern DR Congo has displaced more than 800,000 people since last March, including against the provinces of South Kivu and Ituri.
More than 130 armed groups operate on the border between DR Congo and Rwanda, inclusive M23 militiawhich has previously targeted government forces and UN peacekeeping missions in the country, MONUSCO.
An M23 ceasefire agreement was brokered last week and which is to start on Tuesday, has failed.
The renewed violence in the region has displaced over 800,000 people since March last year, including against South Kivu and Ituri provinces.
Standing to the side
Where access allows, UNHCR teams are positioned to provide psychosocial counseling and community support to those traumatized by what they have seen or endured.
Humanitarians have continued to warn that despite “every effort” to provide shelter and aid to those displaced near Goma, North Kivu’s provincial capital, access to aid remains complicated as major roads have often been made inaccessible due to ongoing conflict.
More than 5,500 people have also crossed the border into neighboring Rwanda since January and further 5,300 to Uganda as insecurity and violence continue to ravage border regions.
“UNHCR strongly reiterates its call to all actors in eastern DRC to stop violence that takes a huge toll on the civilian population,” the UN agency said in a statement.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest internal displacement crisis in Africa, with 5.8 million people internally displaced, mainly in the eastern part of the country. It also hosts over a million refugees from neighboring countries.
It is also one of UNHCR’s most underfunded operations worldwide. For 2023, UNHCR requests 232.6 million dollars to help internally displaced persons and refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of today, DRC operations are only eight percent funded.