UN reports 6.9 mln people displaced within DR Congo

Efforts are intensified to address the complex and persistent crisis in the DRC as the number of internally displaced people climbs to 6.9 million people across the country, the highest number recorded yet, IOM says

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Escalating violence has pushed the number of people internally displaced within the Democratic Republic of Congo to a record 6.9 million, the United Nations said Monday.

The conflict between M23 rebels and militias loyal to the DRC’s government has intensified in the eastern province of North Kivu since early October, particularly north of the provincial capital Goma.

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The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said many people who have fled their homes but stayed within the DRC’s borders desperately needed help to meet their basic needs.

“The IOM is intensifying its efforts to address the complex and persistent crisis in the DRC as the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) climbs to 6.9 million people across the country, the highest number recorded yet,” it said in a statement.

“With ongoing conflict and escalating violence, the DRC is facing one of the largest internal displacement and humanitarian crises in the world.”

The M23, which has captured swathes of territory in the east since 2021, is one of several militias holding sway over much of the region despite the presence of international peacekeepers.

The IOM said that as of October 2023, about 5.6 million internally displaced people were living in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, and Tanganyika.

“Conflict has been reported as the primary reason for displacement,” it said.

In North Kivu up to one million people have been displaced due the ongoing conflict with the M23.

Independent UN experts, the Kinshasa government and several Western nations including the United States and France accuse Rwanda of backing the Tutsi-led M23, which Kigali denies.

Storm of crises

“As the security situation, particularly in North Kivu and Ituri, continues to deteriorate, movements become more frequent and humanitarian needs soar,” the IOM said.

The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA says almost 200,000 people have fled their homes because of the fighting since October 1 in Rutshuru and Masisi territory, north of Goma, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in eastern DRC.

“For decades, the Congolese people have been living through a storm of crises,” said Fabien Sambussy, the IOM’s DRC mission chief.

“The most recent escalation of the conflict has uprooted more people in less time like rarely seen before. We urgently need to deliver help to those most in need.”

The IOM said that on top of the large-scale humanitarian crisis in the east, other regions have experienced conflict, insecurity, and disasters such as floods and landslides.

The IOM said there was limited humanitarian access and a backdrop of security concerns.

More than two-thirds of the DRC’s internally displaced people live with host families.

The IOM is involved in managing 78 displacement sites hosting more than 280,000 people and is enhancing mental health services for residents facing psychological distress.

“But many more people desperately require assistance to meet their basic needs,” it said.

Only $37 million has been received of the $100 million sought by the IOM for its DRC operations.

The organization wants “increased resources to meet the most pressing needs of communities affected by protracted and repeated internal displacement”.

UN peacekeepers have been present in the DRC since 1999. Known as MONUSCO, the peacekeeping mission is one of the largest and costliest in the world, with an annual budget of around $1 billion.

But the force is deeply unpopular due to perceptions that it has failed to curb violence, and the government wants MONUSCO to leave.

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