Briefing Notes, 6 March 2012
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 6 March 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR is very concerned at the recent displacement of several thousand people as a result of renewed attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Orientale province.
After a lull in the second half of last year, which resulted in improved security conditions for the population in the north of the province, fresh attacks on civilians have been reported during the past few weeks in the territories of Dungu, Faradje, Watsa, Niangara, Bondo and Ango, causing 3,000 people to flee.
There have been 20 new attacks since the beginning of this year. One person was killed and 17 abducted during these violent incidents. Abducted civilians are often used as porters, while the LRA has forced young women into sexual slavery.
The most recent attacks took place in the village of Bagulupa, 55 kilometres east of Dungu. The village was attacked on February 10 and again on February 24, forcing most of the inhabitants to flee on foot towards Dungu, the main town of the Haut Uele district.
Most of the displaced have moved towards Dungu and to settlements for internally displaced people (IDPs) in the area. According to information gathered by UNHCR field staff, most new arrivals were already displaced by previous LRA attacks. Other civilians could be displaced in areas that humanitarian agencies cannot reach due to insecurity and poor road access.
The humanitarian situation of the displaced is harsh. Newly arrived IDPs in and around Dungu sleep in makeshift settlements. They lack clean drinking water and basic sanitation facilities. The situation of IDPs who fled to remote areas is almost certainly worse.
To alleviate the suffering of the displaced in Dungu territory, UNHCR recently distributed basic emergency items, such as plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets and kitchen sets, to some 200 newly displaced. The World Food Programme distributed food while NGOs provided medical care and agricultural tools. But more aid is needed.
UNHCR supports local and traditional authorities to help the displaced communities and to prevent further displacement. The refugee agency liaises with UN peace-keepers to strengthen the presence of security forces in affected areas.
From 2006 to 2011, a total of 831 attacks against civilians have been reported in the northern part of Orientale province. The vast majority of attacks are attributed to the LRA. More than 2,000 people are known to have been killed and 2,832 abducted, including 1,109 children.
Since 2008, the LRA's activity in the province has caused the internal displacement of some 320,000 people. During the same period, 30,000 Congolese refugees fled to the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
For further information on this topic, please contact:
In Kinshasa, Celine Schmitt on mobile +243 81 700 9484
In Goma, Simplice Kpandji on mobile +243 81 833 132
In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483