GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency reports hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces are living in abject poverty and subject to mass human rights violations.
A wave of brutal attacks by armed groups in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in June triggered the flight of some 300,000 people, mainly women and children from their homes. The U.N. refugee agency says these forcibly displaced people are living in dire conditions with host communities.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says the civilians are unprotected, subjected to extreme human rights violations on a daily basis and living in fear of death and destruction.
“Five months on from the June attacks, killings, sexual violence and abductions persist amid continuing conflict," Baloch said. "Many women and children are still living in precarious conditions, sleeping in the open or in the overcrowded public spaces, further exposing them to risks of harassment, assault or sexual exploitation.”
About 100 different armed groups are operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Baloch says many of the violations taking place are linked to decades-long conflicts among these groups and the government, as well as inter-ethnic violence, and the illegal exploitation of mineral resources.
He tells VOA the conflict and brutality against the civilian population are overshadowed by an ongoing Ebola epidemic in the region.
“That is a really worrying and dangerous mix of everything happening in there," Baloch said. "We have heard of reports, you may already have heard it here, that many of the health clinics have been attacked and not spared as well in those parts of the DRC.”
The UNHCR is stepping up its response to the growing displacement crisis in eastern DRC. It is deploying additional staff to the area. It is providing basic non-food relief and has built communal hangars and emergency family shelters to help keep the displaced safe.
The agency, however, says it is seriously short of cash. Without additional funds, the UNHCR warns it will not be able to continue its support for these desperate people. The agency reports it has received only 57 percent of the $150 million needed to run its humanitarian operations in DRC this year.