GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency reports that more than 11,000 Congolese have fled to neighboring Angola, seeking refuge from an upsurge in violence between rebels and government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kasai Province.
According to the The U.N. refugee agency, more than one million people have been displaced within the DRC since mid-August when conflict erupted in Kasai Province.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said more than 9,000 people fled to Angola this month, in fear of their lives, as fighting intensified. He said some refugees have been forced to hide in the forest for several days before making their escape. All the refugees, he said, arrive in Angola in desperate condition.
"The situation among arriving refugee children is dire as about half of the arriving refugee population are children," he said. "Many of them are arriving malnourished and sick, suffering from diarrhea, fever and malaria. Two children are reported to have already died from severe malnutrition inside Angola."
Baloch said some parents reportedly sent their children to Angola, fearing they would be recruited as child soldiers by the militias in Kasai. The U.N. Children's Fund, which agreed that is a valid concern, reported at least 2,000 children are being used by the militia to fight their war.
The UNHCR reported conditions along the DRC border in Angola are overcrowded. It said refugees lack proper shelter and are forced to stay in makeshift buildings, with food, water and other relief in short supply.
It said heavy rains in the country are putting vulnerable refugees — women, children, the elderly and disabled — at risk of becoming ill.