More than 300 000 flee DR Congo violence

160

More than 300,000 people fled inter-ethnic violence in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since early June, complicating tracing and treatment of patients at risk from Ebola, UN aid agencies said.

At least 161 people were killed in a north-eastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.

“Violence in the north-eastern parts of the country is reported to have displaced more than 300,000 since early June. The situation in Ituri province has deteriorated since the middle of last week, with multiple attacks involving Hema and Lendu groups,” UN refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch told a news briefing.

The UNHCR fears the escalation could engulf large parts of the province, amid reports of killings, kidnappings and sexual violence against civilians, he said. Government is trying to bring clashes under control, he added.

As Congolese flee violence at “this massive scale”, fears are more people will seek safety in Uganda, crossing Lake Albert, Baloch said.

An Ebola epidemic in Congo, which spread to Uganda last week, caused 2,168 infections since August, with 1,449 deaths, with Ituri accounting for about 10% of cases and deaths, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

“We are always saying the mobility of the population in North Kivu and Ituri is a risk factor,” Jasarevic told the briefing.

“Every time you have people moving in high numbers, it is more complicated to do the work of follow-up, contact tracing, follow up on people supposed to be observed on a daily basis for 21 days,” he said, referring to the disease’s incubation period.