The emergency relief wing of the United Nations voiced deep concern today over the dire humanitarian situation and safety of more than 1 million people forced to flee their homes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a result of violent conflict in the region.
A series of armed attacks on makeshift camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), human rights violations and general banditry in the North and South Kivu provinces have seriously disrupted aid operations, reported the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
On 15 January in North Kivu, armed militia stole a truck belonging to a humanitarian organization and then used it for a violent assault on aid workers in the Muhanga IDP camp in a bid to steal their belongings.
OCHA said that the mainly Rwandan Hutu rebel group, known as the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), reportedly raided the Nyange camp in North Kivu on 22 January, killing three people and injuring several others.
According to IDPs in the camp, the incursion was intended to forcefully recruit men to the FDLR, which has been on the receiving end of several Government offensives since last year in a bid to flush the group out of North and South Kivu, where it has been operating since the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.
In addition, reliable information collected by OCHA suggests that the notorious Ugandan rebel outfit, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), slaughtered some 100 people in north-eastern DRC on 13 January. The total number of Congolese slain by the LRA in January is still unknown, but OCHA reported that over 80 had been killed in December 2009.
OCHA said that displacement lies at the core of the humanitarian crisis in eastern DRC, with an estimated 1.3 million IDPs in the two Kivu provinces and at least 1 million believed to have been driven from their homes in 2009.
Aid operations are severely restricted by conflict and rampant banditry leaving many vulnerable populations without assistance, said OCHA, adding that the poor state of roads and other infrastructure have compounded the situation.