The U.N. refugee agency has expressed outrage at the sharp rise in deadly attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri and South Kivu provinces.
Dozens of people have been killed and scores wounded in the last month in a series of raids on sites harboring displaced people. The latest incident took place Sunday at Ndjala, a site for displaced people in the Drodro health zone in Ituri province.
Local authorities say 10 women, and nine children were killed and 11 people wounded. They say men used guns, machetes and knives during their killing spree.
A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, Boris Cheshirkov, says the attack was preceded by a series of grisly assaults against unarmed civilians who were displaced by previous atrocities.
"And what we have seen just in the span of several weeks is an increase in the number and frequency of attacks," Cheshirkov said. "And these are brutal attacks. At the end of these attacks, we have the bodies of women, of children, of families. And whole communities are torn apart.”
About 120 armed groups reportedly operate in eastern DRC. Media reports put the blame for the recent attacks on fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, known as CODECO.
The group is composed mainly of people from the Lendu farming community. Decades of inter-communal, ethnic conflicts between Lendu agriculturalists and Hema pastoralists have resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
Cheshirkov says the recent clashes have uprooted thousands of people living in locations that are housing displaced people. For example, he notes a deadly attack on November 21 in villages in Drodro and Tche forced some 20,000 inhabitants to flee for safety to Rhoe, a site near a U.N. military base.
"The site doubled in size from 21,000 to 40,500 people in just 48 hours, forcing the newly arrived families to sleep in the open," Cheshirkov said. "The main needs are food, shelter and health care, as well as psychosocial assistance.”
لإhe UNHCR is calling on all parties to stop the attacks on displaced communities and to treat those facilities as sanctuaries for people who are forced to flee their homes.
The agency is appealing for greater financial support, adding it has received only 52 percent of the $205 million needed for its lifesaving operation in the DRC.