This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Militia groups across eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are continuing to target displaced civilians in a growing number of deadly attacks this month.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partner organizations are shocked by reports of eight major attacks in Ituri Province impacting displaced people in just the first ten days of February – characterized by killings, kidnappings, looting of livestock and food, and torching of homes.
Most recently, in the early hours of Tuesday 15 February, militia fighters massacred 17 people with machetes in the locality of Lando, Djugu Territory. Eight children were among those killed. A mother and her two children were burned alive as assailants set shelters ablaze.
UNHCR calls on all parties involved to immediately halt the violence against civilians, including displaced populations, many of whom have been forced to flee multiple times. Large-scale and repeated displacements are overwhelming the resources of neighbouring settlements where people have sought safety.
The wave of violence follows a particularly lethal attack on the Plaine Savo site for displaced people on 1 February, also in Djugu Territory, Ituri. In that incident, 62 people were killed by militia fighters while a further 47 were injured. This sparked the displacement of 25,000 people in the area, who fled towards Bule town where UNHCR and partner CARITAS have been providing emergency support.
Despite the government-enforced state of siege introduced in May 2021 in a bid to stabilise the region, violence and abuse against unarmed citizens and displaced people continue to destabilize swathes of the North Kivu Province. Earlier this month, seven displaced people in Masisi territory fled after being whipped for not paying a tax imposed by armed groups, while six others were abducted and released only after payment of a ransom. In Beni, continued brutality against local inhabitants has driven thousands from their homes in the last week alone. Civil society actors have highlighted the enormous pressure and trauma inflicted by these continued attacks on local communities, not least because displaced people are no longer able to return home.
Elsewhere, intercommunal conflicts in South Kivu have displaced at least 10,000 people since the beginning of February.
According to OCHA, 2.7 million people were displaced in DRC between January and November 2021. A total of 5.6 million IDP being recorded at the end of November 2021.
UNHCR urges all parties to allow humanitarian organizations access to provide life-saving assistance to those in need. Kidnappings and attacks on aid workers, which have also been on the increase, must stop so that they can continue their operations without threats to their security.
The continued lack of funding to the region and across DRC is inhibiting provision of desperately needed assistance, with UNHCR’s programmes in need of US$225.4 million to meet the urgent needs of the displaced.
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