The U.N. refugee agency said an armed group in the Democratic Republic of Congo is on a rampage that has killed nearly 200 people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes since the start of this year.
More than 100 armed groups are active in the northeastern DRC, in a perpetual fight for political power, control of natural resources and survival.
The U.N. refugee agency said one of them, the Allied Democratic Forces or ADF, has become especially violent of late, killing nearly 200 civilians and displacing an estimated 40,000 in the DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces over the past two and a half months.
In less than three months, said U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Babar Baloch, the ADF allegedly has raided 25 villages, set fire to dozens of houses and kidnapped more than 70 people.
“It seems that since the beginning of the year they have gone on a rampage in terms of raiding villages, killing civilians, kidnapping people, leaving people injured behind and the consequences are really, really clear on the desperate population who have to flee, in cases many times from each location to another.”
Baloch said the main reasons given for the attacks reportedly include retaliation against military operations, search for food and medicine, and allegations that communities shared information on ADF positions.
He said women and children constitute the majority of those fleeing their homes. The men, he said, stay behind to protect their property. Baloch notes displaced people are living in dire conditions without shelter, food, water or health care.
“In the context of Ebola and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of access to toilets, clean water or soap and menstrual hygiene products is particularly of concern," Baloch said. "In addition, families do not have enough essential items like blankets, sleeping mats or cooking materials.”
Before this recent mass displacement, the UNHCR was trying to assist an estimated 100,000 internally displaced people who had fled from previous armed attacks. Baloch said his agency has almost no money for this part of the DRC and can only afford to help 4,400 families out of hundreds of thousands of people in need.
The UNHCR is urgently appealing for $2 million to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to those displaced in Beni, North Kivu and Irumu Territory in Ituri.
The agency needs $33 million for its humanitarian operation in the whole of eastern DRC. To date, only 5.5% of that amount has been received.