The spreading ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations says is driving more people from their homes where the humanitarian situation in “dramatically deteriorating”.
Over 100 thousand people were forced to flee their homes just last week bringing the number of the displaced in the central Kasai region to nearly 1.3 million, the head of the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) in the DRC, Rein Paulsen told reporters in Geneva.
“The first of January 2016 OCHA estimated that there were 1.6 million IDPs (Internally Displaced People) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fifteen months later, at the end of March 2017, we found ourselves with an estimated 3.7 million IDPs in the country,” Paulsen explained.
The figure he said represented an increase of more than 2 million refugees in the space of 15 months.
A further 460, 000 Congolese are also said to be living as refugees in nine neighbouring countries.
Attacks on aid workers in the DRC, Paulsen noted had made it difficult to reach populations in need leaving an estimated 1.9 million children under the age of five are “severely acutely malnourished”.
Paulsen cited fresh reports from U.N. staff of inter-ethnic fighting in the Kasais, including the Penda and Chokwe ethnic groups against the Luba and clashes between the Lunda and Luba.
140 villages the OCHA head said had been burned down in a separate conflict between the pygmy population and Bantu ethnic groups in Manono, in the eastern province of Tanganyika.
In April, the UN said it documented 40 mass grave sites and killings of more than 400 people in Kasai.