Renewed clashes and insecurity causing displacement in Eastern DRC
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 20 January 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Renewed violence variously involving government troops, FDLR forces, and local defence groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile eastern region has forced over 100,000 civilians out of their homes since late November.
UNHCR is very concerned about the consequences of this violence on the protection of civilians caught in the fighting.
In North Kivu, an estimated 35,000 people have been displaced as a result of attacks and clashes between rival militia groups in Walikale and Masisi territories. At least 22 people were reported killed and an unknown number of women raped during the fighting.
Despite limited humanitarian access because of the prevailing insecurity in the region, staff from UNHCR, OCHA and the UN Peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) met some of the displaced during an assessment mission to affected areas last week. They found several empty and burned villages, as well as looted healthcare centers. In Walowa Yungu, for example, 14 of the 18 villages in the area have been virtually deserted by residents.
Most displaced people are either living with host families, in overcrowded makeshift settlements, or occupying schools. Some of them told the assessment team that they have lost access to their farmlands and that they are victims of forced labor, harassment and violence.
In South Kivu, attacks in Shabunda have displaced some 70,000 people since November. According to local sources, some 4,400 are estimated to have fled violent attacks during the past two weeks. The displaced are seeking refuge in South Kivu Province but are also reported to be moving towards the neighboring provinces of Maniema and Katanga.
We are working with our partners to address the needs of the displaced as we gain access to them. This includes providing shelter, clean water, food and healthcare. In addition to the material assistance, our colleagues on the ground are also providing psycho-social support to survivors of rape and other traumas caused by the violence.
Before the current attacks, there were already 1,119,597 people uprooted by years of armed violence in the two Kivus.
In a separate development further south, we are hearing reports of more than 12,000 people having been recently displaced in central Katanga Province. An inter-agency mission - that UNHCR is part of - was planned to go to the area this week but had to be postponed for security reasons. According to our initial information, 65 percent of these displaced are young boys and girls who have sought refuge in 17 villages in Mitwaba territory. They reportedly fled to escape from new militia activities in this relatively stable province.
For further information on this topic, please contact:
In Kinshasa, Celine Schmitt on mobile +243 81 700 9484
In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483