from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – ARMED groups are accused of barbaric violence, including attacks with guns, arrows and machetes on civilians, during ethnic clashes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In addition, entire villages have been burnt down, farms and shops looted during the conflict between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups in the Ituri region.
Violence has claimed an estimated 300 people since December.
Around 350 000 people are estimated to have fled the violence afflicting the region in recent months.
The humanitarian challenges are enormous with hospitals, schools and other key infrastructure completely destroyed.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is particularly concerned about the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition and who are in need of urgent medical care.
A UNHCR team recently obtained access to the affected area.
Charlie Yaxley, UNHCR spokesperson, said conditions at displacement sites were also desperate with inadequate clean water, no sanitation facilities and insufficient access to healthcare.
He bemoaned the rising risk of diseases spreading, particularly at a displacement site near the major hospital in Bunia town.
“There, the rate at which people are dying has been increasing,” Yaxley said.
He said several people had died in June, while the number of people suffering from respiratory diseases and anemia was rapidly growing.
The pastoralist Hema and agriculturalist Lendu groups have fought over land since the 1970s.
Recurring clashes are among a series of conflicts battering DRC as it prepares for divisive elections at the end of the year.
– CAJ News