Escalating violence leaves hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands on the move in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply concerned by the escalation of brutal attacks on civilians by non-state armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The latest deadly attack happened on 19 January at the Plaine Savo site for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ituri province. Armed men stormed the site with firearms and killed two adults and five children. Many shelters were looted and burned to the ground. As many as 17,000 people fled to the greater security of the nearby town of Bule. They are now staying in schools, churches, and poorly covered outdoor markets without sufficient food and water.

More than 200 civilians have been killed in the last six weeks in Ituri in a series of attacks by non-state armed groups, which also destroyed 2,000 houses and closed or demolished 80 schools. At least 52,000 people have fled in a province already hosting 1.5 million IDPs. Of those, 35,000 people have found refuge in the relative safety of Rhoe IDP site, where the infrastructure of emergency shelters, communal latrines and shared cooking spaces is now straining under the weight of a population of 70,000 people – nearly double its planned capacity.

Attacks are also occurring in neighbouring North Kivu province, where a dramatic resurgence of clashes began in March 2022 and 521,000 people have fled for their lives from aerial bombardment and forced recruitment by non-state armed groups. Some 120,000 people have moved to the relative safety of the outskirts of the provincial capital of Goma, carrying personal belongings on their heads and children on their backs. In total, 2.1 million people are displaced in the conflict-torn province.

Amidst this volatility, UNHCR and partners continue to deliver life-saving assistance to displaced populations. We assisted 1,154 families of persons with disabilities, pregnant women and those with other vulnerabilities to move into newly constructed emergency shelters in Buchagara IDP site near Goma in North Kivu in January and will add 1,000 new tarpaulin-walled homes at Rhoe IDP site in Ituri.

Building at Buchagara has continued despite UNHCR receiving just 46 per cent of its requirements in 2022, but this has only been possible by de-prioritizing other needs, such as education services. For 2023, UNHCR is asking for US$233 million to assist IDPs and refugees in the DRC.

The violence and instability in the region also mean that UNHCR and partners are delivering life-saving shelter, site management and protection services despite risks to the safety of humanitarian personnel. UNHCR reiterates that humanitarian actors and civilians should not be targeted in armed conflict and calls on all parties to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of sites for displaced people.

Over 5.6 million people are internally displaced in the DRC, making it the largest displaced population on the African continent and one of the largest worldwide. The country also hosts 524,700 refugees.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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