UNHCR: Conflicts in DRC could unleash terrible consequences

Photo: UNHCR An internally displaced woman washes her hands before receiving cash assistance at Kigonze site, Ituri Province, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The latest rounds of violence in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) displacing thousands of people could unleash terrible consequences for the country as it grapples to initiate a new fight against the deadly coronavirus, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency warns.

The agency rang the bell on Friday that more than five million people have been uprooted by conflict within the DRC’s borders, the single-largest internally displaced population in Africa. The country also hosts over half a million refugees, fleeing unrest and persecution in the neighbouring countries.

Recent attacks in North Kivu and Ituri provinces are reported to have displaced more than 35,000 people in recent weeks including some 25,000 in villages south of Lubero territory. In the meantime, security has deteriorated in the Djugu Territory in Ituri province, where a growing number of attacks by unknown assailants have displaced over 12,000 persons so far this month, UNHCR says asserting that these attacks hamper humanitarian access, hinder assistance to desperate displaced people, and disrupt vital coordination on Covid-19 prevention and sensitisation.

Ongoing violence and insecurity in other parts of the country could also make it harder for the displaced to access public health facilities. Many areas and sites hosting displaced people are also overcrowded, making it difficult to implement physical and social distancing.

Since the beginning of the pandemic the total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country is 287 and continue to rise, and the deaths are 23, mainly in the capital Kinshasa, UNHCR is working closely with other UN and humanitarian partners to prevent the spread of the disease among refugees and the internally displaced.

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