The scale of destruction and displacement caused by the Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is becoming clearer as news emerges that at least 125,000 people have been driven out of their villages in the Haut Uele district of Orientale province in the last three weeks alone.
A statement from Karl Steinacker, the eastern DRC coordinator for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, says this brings to 540,000 the number of Congolese uprooted by the LRA in Orientale province in the far northeast of the country since September 2008. Steinacker describes the situation as the most severe humanitarian crisis ongoing in eastern Congo at the moment.
Civilians told the UNHCR of the trauma they endured at the hands of the LRA over the last weeks.
A blind 95-year-old man from Dungu, one of the places hardest hit by the LRA, said he was disgusted that the LRA had forced someone old enough to be their grandfather to flee his home. Dungu is about 400 kilometers west of the Ugandan border.
The displaced civilians say they are terrified to go home because the LRA has looted and burned down their homes.
The LRA rebels have reportedly killed 1,270 people and abducted 655 children in Orientale province. They have also destroyed hundreds of homesteads and pillaged health centres, schools and other public buildings.
UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have distributed aid kits consisting of blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and soap to 11,000 internally displaced people around the villages of Ngilima and Kapili, north-west of Dungu, the capital of Haut Uele district. However, insecurity and impassable roads continue to make it difficult for aid agencies to reach and help the vast majority of the displaced.
UNHCR says that as the number of IDPs increases, friction over the meagre resources has erupted between the displaced and host families who have been stretched to the limit. Some of the host families have been hosting the displaced since September last when the LRA started its attacks in Haut Uele.
The LRA has also forced an estimated 8,000 Congolese to flee to neighboring South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Some 6,500 of these have gone to the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan, where LRA attacks in Ezo forced UN staff to evacuate less than a fortnight ago.
In CAR, the Congolese refugees headed for Mboki and Obo in the eastern part of the country bordering both DRC and Sudan. This week UNHCR dispatched a team from Bangui to Mboki to assess the situation and assist the refugees and internally displaced people.
lord's resistance army
internally displaced persons