UNHCR Concerned Over Escalating Violence and Displacement in Eastern DRC

Deaf and mute, Machozi Kanake, 64 years old and mother of 6 children has found refuge in this site of Rusayo where she hopes to live far from the shooting and bombing. One of the sites for people displaced by escalating violence in North Kivu near Goma, the provincial capital. © UNHCR/Blaise Sanyila

Escalating violence and rampant human rights abuses in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are causing a fresh wave of displacement, both within and outside of the country, warns the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

In North Kivu province, a recent ceasefire has not stemmed the flow of people fleeing violence. UNHCR reports that over 90,000 people across Rutshuru and Masisi territories have been forcibly displaced in the first weeks of October. The displaced families urgently require essential supplies such as food, clean water, and shelter, but humanitarian access is severely hampered by ongoing conflicts.

In South Kivu province, which is on the periphery of the primary conflict, over 260,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have sought refuge. The province is experiencing a severe deterioration in the protection environment, with 8,243 human rights violations reported in September alone, including killings, looting, and rape.

Disease outbreaks, especially cholera and measles, continue to afflict IDP sites in North Kivu, exacerbated by overcrowding and a lack of drinking water. Only 115,000 out of 1 million people urgently requiring tarpaulin shelters in the eastern provinces have received them since June. Additionally, many children in North Kivu are unable to attend school as their classrooms are being used to shelter displaced families.

Despite a joint declaration in June to intensify emergency response efforts, humanitarian organizations operating in eastern DRC have only secured funding to reach 2.7 million of the 5.5 million people most urgently in need. UNHCR itself requires $232.6 million to adequately address the needs of displaced people in DRC this year, yet only 40 percent of this amount has been received so far.

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Confronted with dire circumstances, displaced families, who would prefer to stay close to their extended family networks and sources of livelihood, are being pushed to cross international borders. From January to August 2023, around 45,000 new refugees from the DRC arrived in neighboring countries, including Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. These countries are grappling with acute shelter and protection needs for the new arrivals.

These asylum countries are also facing severe underfunding. In Burundi, medical referrals have been reduced to 70 percent, and the provision of healthcare beyond emergency referrals to secondary care has ceased in Rwanda. UNHCR has discontinued all cash assistance programs for refugees in Rwanda, and the World Food Programme will reduce cash assistance for food starting in November. In Tanzania, assistance for individuals with specific needs, such as survivors of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse, and at-risk children, has been drastically reduced.

The 2023 Regional Refugee Response Plan for the DRC situation, which involves 69 humanitarian and development partners in collaboration with governments and UNHCR, is currently funded at only 16 percent of the required $605 million.

UNHCR urgently calls upon the international community to increase efforts toward lasting peace in the DRC and provide the resources needed to alleviate the suffering of displaced people in eastern DRC, as well as Congolese seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

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