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UNHCR says alarmed at violence in DRC’s Kasai region

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Friday it is “alarmed” over the violence and continued displacement of civilians from Kasai, a region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo afflicted by conflict since late 2016.

The estimated number of displaced people in Kasai now stands at more than 1.3 million, said the UN agency.

William Spindler, the refugee agency’s spokesperson, said at a UN briefing that “During recent missions to two provinces bordering the main conflict region, Kwilu and Lualaba, UNHCR’s team met some extremely vulnerable new arrivals.”

Many of those fleeing said they had to make their way through dense forest without food, drinking water and medicine. They said they had seen people dying on the way, including women and children.

Among the vulnerable cases were civilians wounded or mutilated, with machete and gunshot wounds, said Spindler.

“Many new arrivals show signs of deep trauma after having experienced or witnessed atrocities, in a situation where no psycho-social support is available,” he said.

The risk of sexual abuse and exploitation makes the situation particularly worrying. Many children and women fled on their own. Some unaccompanied minors are without proper foster care arrangements.

UNHCR said it is closely working with national partner organizations in five provinces affected by the displacement (Kasai, Kasai Central, Kwango, Kwilu and Lualaba), with more than 267,000 hot meals distributed each day.

Host communities with limited resources are accommodating the majority of those displaced and many of those fleeing have expressed worries about their children having stopped attending school.

The conflict in the Kasai region, which started in late 2016 between a local traditional leader—the Kamuina Nsapu—and state authorities, continues to expand, with other armed groups springing up and committing severe human rights abuses against civilians, said UNHCR.



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