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More People Fleeing Fighting in North Kivu Province of DRC

The U.N. refugee agency says more people have been fleeing a fresh round of fighting this week in the Masisi district in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva the UNHCR expects new waves of displaced people in the coming days.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the situation in North Kivu province continues to worsen. It says it is extremely concerned that an intensification of fighting will lead to tens of thousands of newly displaced people flooding already over-crowded displacement campsites.

Since December, escalating fighting among government, renegade and rebel forces has caused more than 300,000 Congolese to flee their homes. The UNHCR calls this the worst displacement situation in the past three years.

UN refugee agency spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis says fresh arrivals are reported daily in the campsites hosting internally displaced people in the Mugunga area. She says there also are reports of people fleeing into neighboring South Kivu province.

"There are now some 65,000 IDPs [internally displaced people] sheltering in the larger Mugunga area which is close to Goma, with 45,000 in displacement sites and camps and the rest staying with host families," she said. "Our teams have been out there identifying new arrivals. Many have walked two days to reach these sites of safety around Goma and they report there are many more displaced people on the road."

Pagonis says it is not clear how many people actually have fled their homes. She says field workers keep getting new reports of people being displaced.

For instance, she says UNHCR aid workers discovered another large group of displaced people in the village of Nzulo, some seven kilometers east of Sake in Masisi district. She says they apparently fled when fighting between government army and renegade troops flared up early in the week.

She says many people said they had fled earlier fighting and then had been displaced again by the most recent upsurge. Some people are believed to be hiding in the forests.

Pagonis says the UNHCR will join other international aid agencies over the next few days to verify the numbers displaced and the help they need.