THE UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has raised alarm at an ongoing surge in violent attacks on local populations in the Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in just two months.
Tensions have been on the rise since December 2019 with the launch of a government-led military operation against various armed groups operating in the area.
Violence has surged since mid-March as the number of counter-attacks by armed groups have multiplied.
In Ituri province, UNHCR and its partners have recorded more than 3,000 serious human rights violations in Djugu Territory in the last 60 days, arising from almost 50 attacks against the local population on average every day.
Displaced persons have reported acts of extreme violence with at least 274 civilians killed with weapons such as machetes. More than 140 women were raped and almost 8,000 houses set on fire.
The vast majority of those displaced are women and children, many of whom are now living under crowded circumstances with host families.
“UNHCR is concerned for the safety of the displaced people and fears that the lack of humanitarian assistance will have a huge impact as income opportunities have been reduced with the COVID-19 pandemic,” UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said.
Yaxley said the UNHCR and its partners “are working to assist with relief supplies and constructing more shelters for the newly displaced.
“However, Internally Displace Persons (IDP’s) sites are rapidly becoming overcrowded due to the large number of new arrivals and the limited available land. Funding shortages are also affecting our ability to meet the most basic needs of the displaced populations. Our funding appeal of US$154 million for DRC is only 18 per cent funded.”