Fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has forced 4.5 million people to flee their homes over the past year and left more than 13 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Babar Baloch, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters that the agency is working with partner organizations in western Uganda to support the influx, many who are exhausted, hunger and deeply traumatized by “horrific inter-ethnic violence and sexual abuse” they have reportedly endured.
Since the year began, an overwhelming 77.5 per cent of more than 57,000 refugees displaced by the violence in eastern DRC are women and children, according to the agency.
“These numbers are on a larger scale still than in 2017, when some 44,000 fled over the course of the entire year,” he continued. “UNHCR fears thousands more could arrive in Uganda if the security situation inside the DRC does not immediately improve.”
UNHCR has received chilling accounts of violence – rape, murder and separation from family members. A growing number of reports indicate that the violence is taking on ethnic dimensions as tribal groups engage in retaliatory attacks. “These are linked to the deteriorating security situation, internal conflicts and inter-communal tensions,” the spokesperson maintained, saying that armed men are reported to be attacking villages, looting and burning houses, indiscriminately killing civilians and kidnapping young men and boys.