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Thousands of Congolese displaced by Ugandan rebels - UN

7 August 2009 – Some 12,500 people in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been uprooted from their homes in the past month by attacks by the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

“The humanitarian situation in this remote part of the DRC remains dramatic,” Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

He said that last month the LRA launched an “unprecedented” 55 attacks against civilians in the Faradje area in north-eastern Orientale province. Villages in the Dungu district of Haut-Uele province were also targeted.

According to the agency, 1,273 people have been killed by the LRA since September 2007 and 655 children and 1,427 adults have been abducted.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) tell UNHCR that many women have been raped by the rebels and their households looted and torched. More than 226,000 people have been displaced in Haut-Uele alone and another 42,000 in Bas-Uele, according to UN estimates.

“Most of the IDPs are unable to return home because of the ongoing assaults,” said Mr. Mahecic. “They sleep in public buildings such as schools and churches. Some have been able to find shelter with friends, relatives or host families willing to share their meagre food stocks.

“According to our local partners, regular medical supplies are low, hospitals lack basic equipment and drinking water is in chronically short supply,” he added.

While UNHCR and other aid agencies have been able to reach some 45 per cent of the displaced and provide basic assistance such as food, blankets, sleeping mats and cooking sets, the agency said that insecurity is preventing larger scale deliveries of humanitarian assistance.

“Ongoing insecurity and poor, impassable roads remain the main obstacles to our work. Some of the areas where the IDPs have gathered are accessible only by air,” Mr. Mahecic noted.

UNHCR also reported that the recent displacement is spilling over into neighbouring Sudan. Out of 21,000 refugees in South Sudan, 16,500 arrived since last November from Orientale province, most of them fleeing LRA attacks in Faradje.

 



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