As DR Congo's Kasaï displacement grows, no end in sight to civilian suffering

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Displaced Congolese mother Rose-Haller, 37, reads her bible in a room inside a former clinic in the town of Idiofa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. She fled the village of Banda in Kasai Province with her two-year-old child Chadai and walked for three days to safety after her husband was killed by a militia group.  © UNHCR/John Wessels

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is greatly alarmed over the violence and continued displacement of civilians from Kasaï, a region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo affected by conflict since late 2016. The estimated number of displaced people in Kasaï now stands at more than 1.3 million.

During recent missions to two provinces bordering the main conflict region, Kwilu and Lualaba, UNHCR’s team met some extremely vulnerable new arrivals.  Many said that they spent weeks fleeing through the dense forest without food, drinking water, medicine or clothes and saw people dying on the way, including women and children.

Other vulnerable cases included civilians wounded or mutilated, with machete and gunshot wounds. Many new arrivals show signs of deep trauma after having experienced or witnessed atrocities, in a situation where no psycho-social support is available.

The risk of sexual abuse and exploitation makes the situation particularly worrying. Many children and women fled on their own. Some unaccompanied minors are without proper foster care arrangements.

The majority of those displaced are being accommodated by host communities, despite limited resources. Many also live in abandoned buildings, clinics, schools or mosques. Many expressed worries about their children having stopped attending school.

In view of the ongoing displacement and the growing needs, UNHCR is strengthening its response on the ground through its protection leadership and operational interventions. We are closely working with national partner organizations in five provinces affected by the displacement (Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Kwango, Kwilu and Lualaba), with more than 267,000 hot meals distributed every day. A first distribution of essential household items to some 20,000 vulnerable people in Lualaba province will also start in the coming days.

Delivering assistance and protection to internally displaced people is a huge challenge, given the size of the area impacted – the Kasaï region is about the size of Germany – but has difficult road conditions and lacks security.

The conflict in the Kasaï region, which started in late 2016 between a local traditional leader – the Kamuina Nsapu – and state authorities, continues to expand, with other armed groups springing
up and committing severe human rights abuses against civilians.

 

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