Thousands displaced by Congolese rebels

A recent surge in violence by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has forced thousands to flee their homes, adding to the huge number of civilians already displaced.

Thousands of civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have fled a recent upsurge in violence carried out by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.  © UNHCR/P.Taggart

GENEVA, August 7 (UNHCR) - More than 12,000 civilians have been forced from their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following a wave of attacks by the rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

In the past month the LRA has been responsible for 55 attacks on villages in the north eastern tip of the sprawling central African country. The assaults have targeted civilians in the areas of Faradje and Dungu, which are located close to the Congo's border with South Sudan and Uganda. The area has been the scene of LRA activity for several months. In May and June the group carried out 57 attacks on villages in the region.

In the past year, LRA fighters have killed 1,273 people and abducted more than 2,000, nearly a third of them children. Those displaced by the violence have told UNHCR of widespread rape carried out by the rebels and of households being looted and torched. More than 226,000 people have been displaced in Haut-Uele territory alone and another 42,000 in Bas-Uele, according to UN estimates.

The humanitarian situation in this remote part of the DRC remains desperate. Most of the displaced are unable to return home because of the ongoing assaults. They sleep in public buildings such as schools and churches. Some have been able to find shelter with friends, relatives or host families willing to share their meager food stocks. According to UNHCR partner organizations, medical supplies are running low, hospitals lack basic equipment and drinking water is chronically in short supply.

"UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have managed to reach less than half of the displaced due to the ongoing insecurity and impassable roads," UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said Friday. "There is an urgent need for additional aid supplies,"

Last month, UNHCR, through its partners, distributed relief items such as sleeping mats, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting for temporary shelter to 1,074 families or some 5,000 individuals in the towns of Duru and Nangwakaza near the DRC's border with the Central African Republic. Last weekend, another 800 aid kits were delivered to families in Aru territory in neighbouring Uganda. UNHCR is carrying out monitoring missions to accessible areas to evaluate the needs of the internally displaced, though some of the areas where they have gathered can only be reached by air.

The effects of the LRA attacks in the Congo are also being felt in neighbouring countries. Some 16,500 refugees have arrived in South Sudan since last November, most of them fleeing attacks in Faradje territory of the DRC's Orientale province. Some 2,000 new arrivals have been registered in the last three months. In South Sudan, Congolese refugees are registered by UNHCR and provided with humanitarian assistance