UNHCR gravely concerned by death toll of displaced in DR Congo's east
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply saddened and gravely concerned by the accumulating death toll and suffering of civilians, including forcibly displaced people, in brutal attacks in DR Congo’s eastern provinces.
This unbearable situation is continuing to escalate and must no longer be ignored.
This month, simultaneous attacks by armed groups in Ituri Province have left 11 people dead and 250 homes looted and burned.
Between February and June this year, UNHCR and partners recorded over 800 deaths from firearm attacks and machete raids on local communities in Ituri. At least 715 of these victims had been sheltering in internal displacement sites or were killed as they returned home having previously fled violence. In June alone, 97 returning or displaced people were killed in attacks that included abductions, looting and burning of homes.
More than 20,700 people have been driven from their homes by such raids, which are also fuelling acute food insecurity in Ituri, a fertile region where development has been halted by decades of intercommunal clashes, stealing livelihoods from families and future generations.
In North Kivu, the Kashuga settlement for internally displaced people in Masisi territory was torn apart in June by armed men in a raid that left eight dead and at least seven others grievously injured by firearms.
In recent weeks, fighting between the Congolese Army and the M23 group in North Kivu Province has displaced more than 160,000 people across Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories. The redeployment of government troops to this conflict has created power vacuums and a fragile security environment in both Ituri and North Kivu. Strings of coordinated attacks by multiple militia groups are terrorizing communities on a daily basis in the eastern provinces.
Insecurity compounds the existing challenge of intercommunal strife, the lack of infrastructure and an absence of institutions in the region. It also fuels intensified cycles of violence, generating further instability and undermining peace and development efforts. Such attacks are increasing the difficulties for UNHCR and partners in providing life-saving assistance to these vulnerable communities.
UNHCR’s operation in DRC has received just 19 per cent of the US $225 million required to respond to the increasing needs of refugee and displaced people with urgent and life-saving support. This budget was based on the needs at the start of the year. Significant additional resources are urgently required to match the soaring needs of newly displaced populations.
UNHCR calls on all parties in the strongest terms for the immediate cessation of this senseless violence, which is forcing the displacement of tens of thousands. We also call for the respect of international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and humanitarian workers from violence, and to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice immediately.
More than 5.6 million people are displaced in the DRC, making it the largest population of internally displaced people on the African continent and among the largest worldwide.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In DR Congo, Joel Smith, [email protected], +243825257774
- In Pretoria (regional), Hélène Caux, [email protected], +27 82 376 5190
- In Geneva, Matthew Saltmarsh, [email protected], +41 22 739 7943
- In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, [email protected], +1 347 443 764