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UNHCR: Congo Displaced Crisis Growing

A woman holds her child at a makeshift camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) among old abandoned buildings in Kalemie, Tanganyika province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sept. 18, 2017.

The U.N. refugee agency says the displacement crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo is worsening and causing havoc and unmitigated suffering for millions of people in key regions of the country.

UNHCR reports that during the past two years the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes in the DRC has more than doubled to nearly four million since 2015. The agency notes almost 430,000 have been displaced in the past three months.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told VOA there are many factors behind this alarming surge.

“Clearly, the presidential election is among factors one has to consider in the country, but we cannot draw a straight line between that and the displacement we are seeing elsewhere. It seems to be driven by so many different factors including ethnic, political, land-grabbing and a host of other things as well,” Edwards said.

The DRC presidential election has been postponed from November 2016 to April 2018, but groups opposed to incumbent President Joseph Kabila, who is legally barred from running for a third term, fear that date is now in doubt.

Edwards warns the risk of further displacement is high because of widespread military activities, unrest and violence fueled by ethnic and political conflict.

Areas of major concern include the eastern province of Tanganyika, where more than 580,000 people are internally displaced, many of them victims of gross abuse, including looting and torture. Other key areas of forcible displacement are found in North and South Kivu provinces and in the Kasai region.

In addition to the millions of internally displaced people, the UNHCR reports more than 620,000 refugees from the DRC have sought asylum in more than 11 African countries.