The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says it is alarmed at the rate of violence committed against civilians by armed groups in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that has rapidly taken lives and driven people from their homes.
Boris Cheshirkov, UNHCR spokesperson, said UNHCR and its partners recorded more than 1,200 civilian deaths and 1,100 rapes this year in the two most affected provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.
UNHCR has recorded 25,000 human rights abuses this year, he said. “In total, more than a million Congolese have been internally displaced in the east of the country in 2021,” Cheshirkov said in a press briefing on Friday, Sept. 10.
“Repeated displacement has put pressure on those forced to flee and the host families that have taken in 94 per cent of DRC’s displaced population. Host families have shown huge generosity towards their own, but are exhausted and in need of support if they are to continue as first responders.”
He explained that the harsh living conditions and lack of food often expose displaced people to return to their place of origin, exposing them to abuse and violence.
According to UNHCR, attacks attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have increased in brutality since late 2020, and the frequency of killings of civilians has not ceased despite the state of siege declared in early May, 2021 to counter the activities of these armed groups.
UNHCR’s spokesperson cited a case of attacks committed by ADF members on Friday, Sept. 3, where the armed group raided a village in Irumu territory, killed 15 civilians, set fire to 10 houses and kidnapped two women.
Also, on Monday, Sept. 6, it was reported that an armed group raped 10 displaced women in Djugu Territory, Ituri province. According to him, UNHCR and partners took the women to the nearest hospital where they received psychosocial and medical support.
“Following the state of siege, North Kivu and Ituri Provinces are now led by military governments, under which the national army has ramped up its operations and military tribunals have replaced civil courts” Boris stated
“Despite government efforts to reduce the abuses of armed groups, our teams continue to hear horrific accounts of sexual violence, extortion, and looting.”
He further stated that funding for this humanitarian crisis remains critically low, with the result that UNHCR is only able to respond to a small fraction of the population in urgent need.
“UNHCR is calling on the international community for more support as less than four months from the end of the year, we have received just 51 per cent of the US$205 million required in 2021 for the operation in DRC.”
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