UN refugee agency ‘greatly alarmed’ over mass displacement in Congo conflict
GENEVA (Reuters) – The U.N. Refugee Agency said on Friday it was “greatly alarmed” by clashes between government forces and armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that had caused hundreds of thousands to flee.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh said the violence had prompted nearly 300,000 people to flee across Rutshuru and Masisi territories of DRC’s North Kivu Province in February.
“Civilians continue to pay the heavy and bloody price of conflict, including women and children who barely escaped the violence and are now sleeping out in the open air in spontaneous or organised sites, exhausted and traumatised,” he said.
Saltmarsh said the UNHCR and its partners were stepping up humanitarian assistance but that difficulties remain in accessing displaced people in some parts of North Kivu because of the violence.
In mid-January, the U.N. aid agency OCHA said 12 humanitarian organizations had been forced to limit their operations in parts of Ituri Province because of increased attacks.
Congo’s government declared a state of siege in North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri in 2021 in an attempt to stem rampant militia violence in the country’s vast mineral-rich east.
But the killings and rebel activity have persisted.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)