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UN: Nearly 1 Million DRC Refugees in Urgent Need of Support

FILE - People who fled from Democratic Republic of Congo are seen gathered at the UNHCR-run Kyangwali refugee camp, in Kyangwali, Uganda, March 19, 2018.

The U.N. refugee agency Friday launched an appeal for $621 million to assist nearly 1 million refugees who have fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo seeking safety in neighboring countries. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The situation in the DRC remains one of Africa's most complex and long-standing humanitarian crises. Hopes that violence would lessen following the peaceful transition of presidential power after December 2018 elections have not materialized.

The situation in the eastern part of the country is particularly serious. The U.N. refugee agency says the humanitarian and security situation there continues to deteriorate. UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says tens of thousands of new refugees are fleeing for their lives across borders to escape ongoing armed conflict and intercommunal violence.

"Since the beginning of 2019, we have seen around 100,000 refugees seeking refuge in the neighboring countries. Some 40,000 of those in the last three months starting from the first of December,” Baloch said.

Most have gone to Uganda, which is now sheltering nearly 400,000 of the refugees. Hundreds of thousands of others have fled to Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola and the Republic of Congo.

Baloch told VOA the appeal also aims to assist the host countries, which he said struggle to support themselves as well as the thousands of refugees.

"We have a situation where camps are overstretched in terms of their capacity. We need to do more in terms of providing refugees with shelter. But food, health and also many of these refugees are youngsters in terms of being able to attend school. Education suffers as well,” Baloch said.

The UNHCR says it is hoping for a better response to this year’s appeal than to that of 2019, when only 22% of its $720 million appeal was funded.