UNHCR sounds alert as fresh violence in DR Congo's Ituri province displaces thousands
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – 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 gravely concerned about escalating violence in Ituri province of north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), creating new displacement over the last four days.
At least 30 people are reported to have been killed amid conflict between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. Many villages have been burned to the ground in Ituri’s Djugu territory, according to initial information by UNHCR monitors in the affected areas. Fighting among the two communities had previously devastated the region from 1999 to the early 2000s, leading to large scale internal displacement and refugee movements to Uganda.
Now, UNHCR offices on both sides of the border are once more on high alert. Initial reports put the number of internally displaced in the thousands. Refugee arrivals in Uganda also picked up significantly on Monday, with 1,386 people crossing Lake Albert to the village of Sebagoro, some 270 kilometres northwest of the capital Kampala.
We fear the fighting could spread to neighboring areas, particularly because of the circulation of light weapons in the region. Meanwhile, as physical access in certain communities remains limited, the displaced populations are without any assistance, despite their urgent needs for food and other basic relief items. Greater efforts to ensure security and humanitarian access in the area are vital.
In total, some 5 million people have been displaced by conflicts in DR Congo, 4.35 million of them internally and an additional 674,879 as refugees - including into Burundi last week.
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