The latest outbreak of violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has displaced more than 40,000 people, the United Nations refugee agency said today, adding that the distribution of relief items will soon commence among those uprooted, with most of them having sought shelter in schools and churches.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), most of the population displacement in the volatile North Kivu province is taking place in Rutshuru territory, north of the provincial capital, Goma.
A UNHCR spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told reporters in Geneva that the agency’s field staff reported fighting in Runyonyi, an area south of Rutshuru, on Saturday, between Government forces and renegade soldiers loyal to a former rebel commander, Bosco Ntaganda, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. The fighting continued until Sunday.
UNHCR and aid agencies, including the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross, will soon start distributing relief supplies, including food and medicines to the displaced.
“Some of the displaced report cases of extortion, forced labour, forced recruitment of minors and beatings by armed men,” Ms. Fleming said in her press briefing.
Refugees have also continued to cross the border into neighbouring Rwanda, but in much smaller numbers, compared to the start of the crisis at the end of April.
On average, between 150 and 200 people have been crossing the border daily. As of yesterday, a total of 9,671 refugees from DRC had been registered at the Nkamira transit centre, more than 20 kilometres from the border. Some 510 people voluntarily returned to DRC, including students who decided to return to sit their end-of-school-year examinations.
“We continue to provide assistance at the crowded centre in Rwanda as plans advance to construct a new refugee camp in the south of the country,” said Ms. Fleming. “Shelter and health remain our key concerns.”
In Uganda, UNHCR and the Ugandan police have, over the past week, been moving refugees from the Bunagana border crossing to the Nyakabande transit centre, 20 kilometres inside Uganda. Some 11,261 Congolese have been registered at Nyakabande since 11 May.
WFP is reinforcing its emergency operations in the light of the latest displacements. The agency requires $36 million immediately to help an estimated 500,000 people until the end of the year.