Fighting in the eastern DRC is causing thousands of people to flee the country – while many others are being displaced within the country and are subject to attack.
The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, says the fighting between the Congolese army and what it calls, “dissident forces” is taking place in North Kivu Province. The agency calls the situation in Kiberezi “nothing short of a humanitarian tragedy.”
Marie Ellen Vernay is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Geneva, she spoke with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the violence in North Kivu.
“UNHCR is very concerned about the effect of the fighting there on the civilian population…There are two sides to it. The first one is the people who are fleeing DRC while going to Uganda, crossing the border into Uganda. Thousands of people have been doing that in the past few weeks. Many of them in fact cross the border during the night and come back during the day because they’re so scared of staying home during the night. Perhaps even worse is the situation of the people who don’t who don’t cross the border, who are displaced within the DRC, within the eastern province of North Kivu. These people have had very little assistance and they’re still extremely vulnerable to the violence,” says Vernay.
There have been attacks on some of those who’ve been displaced. “UNHCR has been there and has talked to the people there and what we are hearing can only be described as a humanitarian tragedy. We’re hearing of women and very young girls being raped. We’re hearing of people having nothing to eat, basically fleeing their homes because their homes; their villages are being looted. People are killed by rebel forces. So they flee and they go where they can. Some of them go to other cities but many of them go into the bush where they really have nothing. No water, no food, no assistance. And the problem that gives UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies is that once people are hiding in the forests it’s impossible to find them. So you cannot bring them any help,” says Vernay.