More aid needed for the many uprooted by DR Congo unrest: UN
The UN refugee agency appealed Tuesday for an extra $40 million (30.6 million euros) to help the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes in DR Congo amid the violence unleashed by an army mutiny in April.
The additional funds are needed “to help the almost half a million forcibly displaced Congolese civilians in the east of the country, and also in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, where large numbers have recently fled,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Flemming told reporters in Geneva.
The latest turmoil and violence in eastern DR Congo began when mutineers, former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel group who were integrated into the country’s army under a 2009 peace deal, launched a new armed group called the M23 that has been engaged in running clashes with the army in the region.
“The needs and the challenges are enormous,” Flemming said, pointing out that since April more than 15,000 serious crimes like murder, rape and forced recruitment had been reported, but that the unreported numbers were likely much higher.
“We believe these violations are rampant,” she said.
Only since April, some 390,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence, while around 60,000 have fled the country, according to UNHCR numbers.
“The situation remains volatile and we have to expect that there will be further displacement this year,” Flemming said, pointing out that the requested additional funds would be enough to pay for assistance to 400,000 people displaced inside the country and for 75,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.
However, she cautioned, “if the violence and abuse of civilians continues to rise (those numbers are) expected to be higher.”
The number of people internally displaced in DR Congo could reach as many as 760,000 in coming months, she said, adding that if that happened “you will see us come back and issue another supplementary appeal.”
The masses of people uprooted by the latest violence brings the total number of displaced people inside the country to nearly two million, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.