Fighting between armed groups and attacks against civilians have caused tens of thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to flee their homes in parts of North Kivu along the Rwandan border, where instability is preventing relief supplies from reaching those in need.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the territory of Lubero reports that the populations of entire villages there – tens of thousands of people – have fled their homes near Kanyabayonga.
Helicopter reconnaissance flights confirmed that several villages along the road from Kanyabayonga to Lubero are 80 per cent empty today. This new displacement is in addition to the 30,000 people who fled their homes in Kanyabayonga earlier this week.
“People have had no choice but to run,” said Jan Egeland, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“Unless the violence stops immediately, this massive displacement will have disastrous consequences for civilians,” he warned. “It is too dangerous to deliver aid to them at this point.”
A joint mission between OCHA, Agro Action Allemand and the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), managed to access the area north of Kanyabayonga and found towns and villages empty. Few displaced people werseen on the main road. Witnesses report that the population has taken to the forest, fearing attacks in the area.
Humanitarian organizations had been forced to withdraw from there earlier in the week due to the deteriorating security situation. The civilian population is fleeing not only direct military action, but also constant harassment from armed groups. “Witnesses report that troops arrived in the area with little or no logistical support and are now taxing the population for food and other goods” said Mr. Egeland.
The inhabitants of Kanyabayonga fled their homes last week when it became clear that their town was to become the front line in fighting between Government troops and mutinous elements of the DRC Army's 8th Military Region. The populations of several other nearby towns and villages fled over the next few days.
OCHA also reported that tens of thousands who had fled fighting earlier in the year were forced to flee the places in which they had sought refuge.
“The longer people are displaced, the greater their needs will become. People have fled with no more than they could carry,” Mr. Egeland said.
According to the International Rescue Committee, the number of people displaced by the last six years of conflict in the DRC is now estimated at 3 million – 2.5 million in the east alone. That non-governmental organization estimates that 3.8 million people have died as a direct or indirect result of the conflict over the last six years.