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Clashes In Eastern DR Congo Displace 450,000 In Six Weeks

Humanitarians are urgently scaling up aid in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where an escalating crisis is again unfolding, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Friday.

Violent clashes between non-state armed groups and government forces have displaced more than 450,000 people in the last six weeks in Rutshuru and Masisi territories in North Kivu province.

People arriving in the town of Sake, located near the provincial capital Goma, spoke of having to make harrowing choices, with men risking death to feed starving children and women risking rape to collect firewood.

‘Concerning pattern of abuse’

UNHCR said its monitoring in the region has showed over 3,000 reported human rights violations in October, nearly double the figure from the previous month.

“Rape and arbitrary killings feature prominently in these results, along with kidnappings, extortion, and the destruction of property, illustrating a deeply concerning pattern of abuse inflicted upon civilian populations,” the agency said.

The intensification of violence is also having a devastating impact on the lives of children, with protection partners reporting a sharp increase in the number of overall violations against them.

Major roads obstructed

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The UN agencies said the severity of the crisis is further exacerbated by the limited humanitarian access to those in dire need, mainly due to the obstruction of major routes, with some 200,000 displaced people cut off from aid.

The disruption also increases the vulnerability of displaced populations, leaving them without essential resources and protection.

Although UNHCR has built shelters in recent months for more than 40,000 people near Goma, and distributed more than 30,000 kits containing tarps, cooking pots, and blankets, the partners more action is needed to ensure that the nearly seven million people affected by conflict receive urgent help.

Humanitarian funding shortfall

UN partners and humanitarian groups are urgently ramping up efforts to tackle urgent needs stemming from overcrowding and inadequate shelter in spontaneous sites, with limited access to food and clean water.

Since June 2023, UNICEF has reached nearly 700,000 people with lifesaving assistance, including clean water and sanitation, child protection, non-food items, health, nutrition and education.

Together with UNHCR, the agency urgently appealed for an end to the violence and underlined their commitment to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the crisis.

However, they stressed that the international community must act swiftly and generously, noting that a $2.3 billion humanitarian response plan for the DRC this year is only 37 per cent funded.

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