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UN refugee agency voices concern about mass displacements in Congo

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern Friday about clashes between non-state armed groups and government forces which have driven hundreds of thousands from their homes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh said at a news conference in Geneva that in February alone, nearly 300,000 people fled in Rutshuru and Masisi territories because of the violence in North Kivu province.

“Civilians continue to pay the heavy and bloody price of conflict, including women and children who barely escaped the violence and are now sleeping out in the open air in spontaneous or organized sites, exhausted and traumatized,” he said. “The needs of vulnerable displaced populations are multiplying as already dire conditions deteriorate and resources in overcrowded locations buckle under the strain of new arrivals.”

The resurgence of violence in the eastern Congo has displaced more than 800,000 since March 2022.

Saltmarsh said humanitarian teams have stepped up activities as well as protection assistance to tackle urgent needs due to overcrowding and inadequate shelter.

The UNHCR reiterated its demand for actors in the conflict to stop the violence which it said is taking an enormous toll on civilians.

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